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Displaced families stay at an evacuation centre outside the city, as army troops continue their assault against insurgents from the Maute group in Marawi city, Philippines, July 3, 2017. © 2017 Reuters

Philippine authorities are threatening to further single out Muslims as part of official counterterrorism efforts.

This week, authorities in Central Luzon in the northern Philippines proposed imposing a mandatory identification card system for the region’s estimated 26,000 Muslims.

Central Luzon Police Superintendent Aaron Aquino sought to justify the Muslim-only ID as a means to “identify and weed out undesirable individuals and terrorists.” Two weeks ago, authorities in the town of Paniqui, Tarlac province, imposed a Muslim-only ID card as a “best practice” that authorities were urged to replicate throughout Central Luzon’s seven provinces.

The ID proposal stems from the ongoing fighting in Marawi City on the southern island of Mindanao between government troops and ISIS-linked Maute-Abu Sayyaf insurgents. In June President Rodrigo Duterte had lambasted Muslim leaders in Marawi City and elsewhere in Mindanao for allegedly allowing the Islamist fighters to enter the city “and cause trouble.”

The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and other human rights treaties to which the Philippines is a party prohibits discrimination based on religion.  The IDs could also violate the rights to equal protection of the law, freedom of movement, and other basic rights. Requiring Muslim-only IDs in response to a perceived failure of Muslims to prevent Islamist fighters from entering Marawi City is a form of collective punishment. It is irrelevant from a rights perspective that during the consultation, some Muslim leaders did not object outright to the proposal.

Since Duterte declared martial law throughout Mindanao on May 23, there have been reports of discrimination against Muslims. ID requirements for Muslims should be rejected outright. 

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