by Christine Godinez Ortega

“Muslim women and girls cannot be prevented from wearing headscarves or face veils as it is part of their religious expression.”

The Commission on Higher Education (CHEd) issued this directive last September 23, 2013 to all Presidents of Private Higher Education Institutions and State Universities and Colleges, and to all Directors of its own Central and Regional Offices.

CHEd chairperson, Dr. Patricia B. Licuanan, issued Memorandum Order No. 10-249-13 in compliance with an advisory from the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) that sought to promote and protect human rights.

The CHR advisory (CHR-A2013-002) that was released on August 8, 2013 was prompted by reports last year of schools refusing to admit female Muslim students who were wearing veils.

The CHEd Memorandum identified the schools as the Universidad de Zamboanga and the Brent Hospital and Colleges, both in Zamboanga City.

Brent Hospital and Colleges allegedly did not allow its female Muslim students to wear the “niqab” as it was seen as being “not consistent with proper hygiene.”

The CHEd, citing Sec. 5, Article 3 of the 1987 Constitution that guarantees the exercise of religious freedom, R.A. 7722 (the Act creating the CHEd), and R.A. 9710 or the Magna Carta of Women, renewed its call to all higher education institutions to “extend respect and consideration on the wearing of ‘hijabs’”. Christine Godinez Ortega OC-OPI

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