By ARTHUR L. ALLAD-IW
BAGUIO CITY ― The House of Representatives, through a resolution, expressed its condolences to the family of human rights lawyer and former Congressman William “Billy” F. Claver, a member of the 8th Congress of the Philippines.
“The Filipino people lost a pioneer human rights and peoples lawyer when William “Billy” Funa-ay Claver passed away on December 15, 2011 at the age of 75,” stated House Resolution No. 2016. It was introduced by Bayan Muna Representatives Neri Javier Colmenares and Teddy A. Casino.
Claver was buried December 21 in Tabuk City, Kalinga where his family resides.
In their recognition to Claver’s contribution as a congressman, the resolution said that “Claver championed the rights of indigenous peoples in the whole country. He chaired the House Committee on National Cultural Communities and sponsored and continuously lobbied various bills, the forerunners of the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act of 1997.”
After his appointment as OIC (officer-in-charge) governor of the then undivided province of Kalinga-Apayao, he was elected as congressman of the lone district representative of the said province from 1988 to 1992. He, too, was a member of the 1971 Constitutional Commission which drafted the 1972 Constitution, where he tried to infuse indigenous peoples rights but was blocked by power interest groups.
Claver was known as a human rights lawyer during the martial law period.
“He lawyered for the Kalinga indigenous peoples in the celebrated cases against the Chico River Dam Project in the 1970s.
He also figured in many other human rights cases involving the peoples of the Cordillera and Northern Luzon in the dark years of the Marcos fascist dictatorship,” the resolution added.
As a member of the Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG), he together with senators and FLAG founders Jose Diokno and Lorenzo Tanada rendered legal services in Northern Luzon during the brutal period of Martial Law.
He dared to stand up for the rights of the Cordillera people, mostly farmers, during that period when most lawyers were intimidated by the military, added the resolution.
He was in the forefront in the campaign for the rights of indigenous peoples to self determination and ancestral land rights recognition, particularly as the chairperson of the Cordillera Peoples Alliance.
Earlier, Ifugao Rep. Teddy Baguilat expresses his condolence to the family of Claver through a statement. “His efforts will not go in vain as his life and his work will serve as an inspiration for us to continue the struggle for the promotion and protection of our rights and welfare as indigenous peoples and our human rights in general,” said Baguilat.
Claver is survived by his wife Jane Abeya of Sagada, Mountain Province. Their marriage was blessed with seven children: Ayangwa and Endena (who are both deceased), Balag-ey, Cabnah, Dwahgan, Farnaw and Gkachay. # nordis.net