MORE than 2,000 Muslim children whose births remain unregistered with government obtained a degree of recognition from the City Registrar’s Office when a Muslim NGO formally turned over lists of their names and data about their birth to the agency.
Jabu-Jabu (The Calling), Inc. president Jaafar Kimpa submitted the lists to Zamboanga City Civil Registrar Atty. Alexander Eric Elias and birth registration officer Lourdes Angeles in their office on Wednesday, February 20.
The listed children have undergone “baptismal rite” officiated by imams in various communities, who together with Jabu-Jabu then issued them a “Katarangan sin Paggunting”. It is a certificate enumerating data about their birth and parents, copies of which are filed with the local mosque where the rite was held, local barangay office, National Commission on Muslim Filipinos and Jabu-Jabu.
Muslim parents have traditionally shunned from registering with government the birth of their children.
When Kimpa joined the Inter-Religious Solidarity for Peace (ISP) back in 2007, he started the Katarangan sin Paggunting project as a step to “legalize” the undocumented Muslim children.
Without any birth document, these children encounter difficulty in enrolling in schools or getting health services from government clinics or hospitals or other social benefits, he noted.
With support from Peace Advocates Zamboanga (PAZ) and others, he printed thousands of Paggunting forms and held orientations for imams on how to fill them up. Many barangays in Zamboanga City especially those with big Muslim populations are now utilizing the forms when holding Paggunting rites.
Registration Officer Angeles said she will use Kimpa’s lists as supporting document when children listed therein would apply for late birth registration.
Incidentally, February is observed nationwide as Civil Registration Month.
Angeles said that about 40 percent of Muslim infants’ birth in the city are now being promptly registered by their parents, still leaving a majority left out. She noted that majority of Christian parents especially those residing in rural areas also fail to register within the prescription period the birth of their children. Under a law, she said, failure to register a child’s birth is punishable by a fine or imprisonment when an application for registration is made with false information.
Atty. Elias said that in connection with the observance of Civil Registration Month, his office conducted orientation and special registration (for birth and marriage) in such barangays as Vitali, Mangusu, Labuan, Mercedes, and Bunguiao. For some of this, his office partners with local organizations like the Catholic parish. His office also collaborated in a mass wedding held on February 14 sponsored by the government agency PAG-IBIG.
He noted that Western Mindanao State University has partnered with his office and Jabu-Jabu for the late birth registration of indigenous tribes’ children in at least four barangays in the city.
Timely birth registration, Elias said, is important because its aggregated data are used to compute the government health and other social services funding allocated to the barangay. Lower births as registered, he said, translate to lower health budget allocations, thereby depriving children of adequate health services.