Customary law, consensus works for Abra folks


TUBO, ABRA — Abra may be identified as an election hotspot this barangay and SK elections, but one municipality shown that peaceful elections are possible by the respected customary practice of drawing consensus.

BUTONG. Lallakay or elders in Brgy. Tubtuba, Tubo, Abra meticulously talk about the criteria for running government officials. They strive to reach a consensus on who to support, effectively preventing election-related violence and fraud. Photoby Ramon Balan-eg

By way of this process, all barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan barangay candidates of all 10 barangays of Tubo are unopposed. Atty. Vanessa Roncal, acting provincial election officer of Abra attested to this.

Pedro Mateo, a member of the Dap-ay di Tubo (Council of Elders) said that due to intense political rivalry in the past elections, they decided to go back to the indigenous ways of the Maeng tribe called butong or the negotiating of issues until they are resolved or until they reach a consensus. Mateo said the intense political rivalries in the town reached its peak in the 2007 and 2010 elections.

Mateo said that the Dap-ay follows the Municipal Charter they crafted for the selection of local officials. He said that they call for aspirants from the barangays and they go through a process of selection until a consensus is built and therefore the council declares those chosen.

“We then present the council’s choice to the people for their approval, so far the people have not disapproved the council’s choices,” Mateo said.

Barangay Tabacda of Tubo is included in watch list of the Police Regional Office Cordillera. But Mateo said that there were no recorded election related violence for the 2013 and 2016 elections in Tabacda because by then the Dap-ay composed charter was already in place and respected.

The Dap-ay di Tubo composed of 200 elders pushed for the creation of a Municipal Charter governing elections and creating the criteria for possible candidates. The barangay-level elders would then call for a general assembly to discuss and negotiate with the candidates. The format of implementation varies from barangay-to-barangay but the general concept remains – selection by butong or consensus.

Mateo said that Dap-ay is composed of 20 representatives from each of the 10 barangays of Tubo. He said that the council members are also involved in keeping peace and order within the town and resolving other issues and concerns.

Mateo further said that the Dap-ay watches over the local officials. “We will remind them and call their attention when needed, if they fail to rectify major errors we will remove them from office,” he said.

In 2016, the system was put to test in the municipal elections when the choices of the elders were challenged when those who disagreed filed for candidacy. Mateo said the challengers lost.

“We will not prevent anyone from running against our choices but our choices are validated by the people,” Mateo said.

“Tubo villages are closely knit communities where we know everybody which is why we know who are suited for government office,” said Mariano Dangatan, chair of the Tipon ti Umili para iti Panangsalwad iti Nakaparsuan (TIPON) a municipal wide peoples organization.

Dangatan said that in his village, Barangay Tiempo, the practice of elders selecting their officials has been a practice since he was a boy. But the practice was formally put down in writing in 2004, he said. He added that all other barangays have their own charters and these were consolidated into a Municipal Charter in 2016.

He said that these charters are recognized by the local and national government as part of government’s efforts to include indigenous political systems in the governance.

Dangatan shared that in their barangay where there are three sitios, they have devised a way for the sitios to take turns on the barangay captain seat. He said TIPON has a core group of 10 representatives from the 10 barangays.

“Politics is one of the main reasons of division among the people,” said Benjamin Dawala, secretary of the council of elders in Barangay Tubtuba

The practice came from Brgy. Tubtuba which has ever since practiced the indigenous system of the dap-ay in election-related affairs.

This 2018, candidates chosen by the Dap-ay are all running unopposed in the barangay elections. This also marks the first elections that all barangays of Tubo are exercising their democratic power through the dap-ay.

The observation after the practice is that, in a province where warlordism is prevalent, election-related violence and even, fraud are prevented. #Ramon Balaney and Norwin Gonzales


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