Mabtad as Told by a Kalinga Warrior

“We went to look for Ngayaan in different places, including forests, rivers, military camps, among others,” explained Longan, present president of the Cordillera Elders Association (CEA).

The family of Ngayaan filed a habeas corpus petition, a legal remedy filed with the court to ask it to order the person or group holding him to produce his person. The petition was filed after Balweg admitted in an interview that his group abducted Ngayaan. The court however denied the said petition.

Balao’s family and friends filed a petition for a writ of amparo to compel the military to resurface the abducted Balao. The writ of amparo has been adopted by the Supreme Court to compel a person or entity to produce a missing person, and if the person is not in their custody, to exert efforts to seek information on the whereabouts of the missing person.

The Regional Trial Court of Benguet is expected to issue its decision on the Balao family’s petition for a writ of amparo. Balao’s case is the first writ of amparo filed in the region.

Unselfish indigenous rights advocate

Longan said he knew James since the time they were lobbying for the inclusion of indigenous peoples’ rights in the 1987 Constitution, which was then being drafted by members of a Constitutional Commission appointed by President Corazon Aquino in 1986.

“He was a staff of Commissioner Ponciano Bennagen, who was endorsed by indigenous peoples,” Longan added.

Longan said Balao, who was already a staff of the CPA then, helped Bennagen in introducing provisions in the 1987 Constitution that recognizes indigenous peoples’ rights to their culture, tradition and ancestral lands. He clarified though that those were outputs of indigenous peoples’ and their technical know-how.

Under Section 22, Article II of the 1987 Constitution, the State is mandated to recognize and promote the rights of indigenous cultural communities while Section 1, Article X mandates the creation of autonomous regions in Muslim Mindanao and the Cordilleras.

Longan claimed that these provisions on indigenous peoples were not at all included in past constitutions.

“Here is an unselfish person who served the people without expecting anything in return. It is high time for us to pay in return by joining the mabtad,” Longan said.

His uggayam reverberates: “Uggayam, o gayaman, bareng no maawatan, turay a kadakdaksan, tapno miruar ida no ayanat nangipupukan, ta saan met a masida wenno makan (I hope it will be understood, by this worst administration, to tell us where they had imprisoned (James), as he (James) is not a viand or a food.) Northern Dispatch/ Posted

Share This Post