By KATHLEEN T. OKUBO
Before representatives and delegates of the NL summit’s organization of Amianan Salakniban, the book, “William ‘Billy’ Funa-ay Claver, Selected speeches and statements,” was formally launched. At that time, knowing he has been greatly weakened by his bout with the amoeba, there was a common fear he may choose to go. He did, with beer in hand, made his last cheers! And went on his way to the great beyond at noontime the next day.
That evening – before the participants, friends and guests at the NL summit on mining and human rights; and with fervent prayer for Billy’s recovery – we launched his book. It was most special because its launching was with representatives of the people and organizations he identified his visions with, the people with whom and for whom he authored his oral arguments and ideas.
The collection of his speeches and statements that has been put together in this book reflects his deep respect and trust in his people. He believed they too had the right as a people, to self-determination as much as the greater Filipino masses. He believed and listened to them and dedicated most of his life to translate their hopes and aspirations into the legal field where he chose to lead the battle for indigenous peoples rights.
The book picks up when Billy brought the struggle to the constitional convention as a delegate in 1971 in the Halls of Congress under Martial Law! His speeches also reflected his experiences of how he grew up to realize the truth in the peoples’ voice and concretely grasp their visions and aspirations which must have hardened his commitment to serve them even against the the cruel Martial Law regime.
He openly waged the campaign to unite the Cordillera provinces not only on the basis of physical location or mountain ranges, on the diversity but also commonalities of their ancestral domain, culture and spirituality and also on the basis of the peoples’ common aspirations. He wresltled and tussled with his audience as he delivered the theory and practice of the right to self determination, of the right to ancestral domain, of the minority against the majority, of indigenous peoples rights. He campaigned to a house of legislators and other politicians when these ideas would have otherwise been considered subversive. He discussed with the village elders to hone articulation of their rights and to further open their minds. He proded the youth and students to study more about their history and their community issues.
He helped many comprehend how regional autonomy was the expression of the Cordillera peoples right to self-determination. One other speech I consider sigificant was his keynote address to the Tabuk High School in 1990 entitled “Campus Journalism and the youth in times of crisis.” I specially believe every Cordillera journalist worth his salt should read and study this. Though I do not believe there is such a thing as “advocacy journalism” because I know there are just the facts and that journalism serves the people.
Billy said, “ I believe that the writer, besides having his facts right must not be prevented from taking a particular stand in favor of the people’s interest. I strongly favor advocacy journalism which I would like to define as ‘writing the facts, writing without fear, writing in favor of freedom.’ What in particular, are the issues about peace that the journalist must write about…?”
He continues, “What are the actual conditions which would make for a situation of peace? By this, I refer to material and non-material conditions including the eradication of poverty, hunger and disease; just and equitable labor practices; redistribution of social assets among those who have none in life and who contribute to social wealth through their labor such as landless peasants, eradication of illiteracy, free access to all levels of education especially to the underprivileged….”
William ‘Billy’ Funa-ay Claver’s remains was layed to rest on the 21st of December 2011 in Tabuk. Cheers, apo! # nordis.net