MANILA- Supreme Court Associate Justice Marvic Leonen on Wednesday questioned Solicitor General Jose Calida on basic facts about Islam and the Islamic State or ISIS during the 2nd day of oral arguments on petitions to nullify the martial law declaration in Mindanao.
Leonen first asked Calida whether he could read the inscription on the flag which was recovered by soldiers from Marawi City last May 23 and used as proof of the link between ISIS and the local terrorist group Maute.
The flag contains an Arabic inscription which Calida admitted he could not read.
Leonen told him it means “shahada,” the creed of Islam and asked whether Calida agreed, to which the Solicitor General responded: “Of course, your honor, I don’t know any Arabic so I have to agree with you.”
The magistrate then told Calida that the inscription is not limited to ISIS and is also used by other groups such as the al Shabaab of Somalia and the AQAP or the Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.
“I am not aware of that your honor,” Calida said.
Leonen then asked Calida whether it is possible that the Maute group was just a “criminal gang” who wants to project its power using alleged links to the ISIS.
Calida said he has been briefed that extremists in Marawi were really planning to establish a caliphate in Mindanao, to which Leonen responded: “Would you have experts to back you up? Where did they say that there can be a caliphate in Southern Philippines?”
“My personal view is that we take seriously this threat your honor,” Calida said.
Leonen then quoted a study of Joseph Franco, who specializes in studies on extremism, saying: “Mindanao is really no place for a caliphate under ISIS because of the ideological disharmony.”
The former chief peace negotiator with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) argued that if the Maute group were pretending to be part of ISIS, then the government is “doing them a big favor because we are actually building them up and giving them the terroristic label that they do not have.”
Leonen then went on to explain the difference between Muslim sects and asked Calida whether he agreed.
“How can I disagree with you your honor, you’re a Muslim scholar?” Calida told Leonen.
“No I am not a Muslim scholar, I’m just reading background material…,” Leonen replied.