William F. Claver: People’s Lawyer from the Cordillera

In 1980, then Sen. Jose W. Diokno was quoted in a symposium on civil liberties in Bontoc, Mountain Province as saying “Senator (Lorenzo) Tañada, Attorney Claver and I are members of an organization called the Free legal Assistance Group (FLAG). There are 117 of us but unfortunately for your region, we have only Attorney Claver, and he is overworked.”

In the same occasion the Rt. Rev. Richard Abellon, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Northern Philippines said Claver had been in the forefront of human rights advocacy in the Cordillera region, especially in the areas covered by the Episcopal Diocese of Northern Philippines since the declaration of martial law.

“Attorney Claver dared to stand up for the rights of the Cordillera Peoples during Martial Law when many lawyers were intimidated by the military,” Rev. Eduardo P. Solang, then Mountain Province board member and past CPA chairman,in a tribute during the Cordillera Day commemoration on April 24, 2003 in Tucucan, Mountain Province, said. “He also selflessly defended victims of human rights violations who are mostly poor farmers. Had there been two or three lawyers with Attorney Claver’s daring and dedication, it would have been easier for our people during Martial Law.”

As a congressman from 1987 to 1992, Claver championed the rights of indigenous peoples not only in the Cordillera but also throughout the country. Aptly, he was honored with a citation as “congressman-at-large for all indigenous peoples” by the Mateo Cariño Foundation on Feb. 23, 2004 – during the 95th anniversary of the promulgation of what is now known as the Cariño Doctrine of Native Title.

Two years ago, Claver was conferred the Select Outstanding Indigenous Peoples Leadership (SOIL) Award for Peace, Human Rights and Environment in recognition of his outstanding achievements in his field of endeavor, which contributed to the well-being of indigenous cultural communities, by the Management Association of the Philippines.

In a tribute on April 24, 2002 in Dupag, Tabuk, Kalinga, the CPA stated: “He is one of the foremost trailblazers in the mainstream campaign for popular assertion of collective indigenous peoples’ rights in the Cordillera and in the mainstream campaign (for) and assertion of individual human rights.”

Claver is founding chairman of the CPA.

Child of the Cordillera

Claver just turned 71 last July 16. Born in Mankayan, Benguet to a couple from Chakalan and Tucucan towns in Bontoc, Mountain Province, the young Billy finished law at San Beda College in 1960, and passed the bar that same year. Intermittent with his private lawyering, he served as Mankayan councilor in 1962 and as Kalinga-Apayao’s lone representative from 1987 to 1992 after a short term as OIC (Officer-in-Charge) governor of the same province. Northern Dispatch / Posted by Bulatlat

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