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Feature: Settling disputes the Kalanguya way
By Ben Moses M. Ebreo
posted 30-Jun-2011  ·  

When the Philippine National Police (PNP), during the Provincial Peace and Order Council (PPOC) meeting on Tuesday reported a zero crime rate within the local government units of Ambaguio and Kayapa from January to June this year, eyebrows stretched high for those who do not know the places, people and culture.

Both towns, along with Sta. Fe are inhabited by the majority of Kalanguya tribe who practice a traditional way of maintaining peace in their community.

And while the PNP does not consider amicably settled cases as officially declared as crime solved, it has succeeded in preventing hatred, misunderstanding and jealousy in triggering the commission of more crimes.

In Sta. Fe town for example, the Kalanguya tribe have rejected the interference of lawyers in the settlement of disputes and cases committed within their community through the ‘Tungtongan”or dialogue system.

The system involved the settlement of cases and disputes committed between families or tribes, said Sumakay, whose father has also served as a members of the “Tungtongan”.

Cases are heard before elders facilitate the decision-making to be offered as an agreement between the parties involved.

“We thank God for giving us this traditional practice of the “Tungtongan” (dialogue system). Cases, regardless of their weight, are settled through our system,” said former Councilor Ernesto Sumakay, 55, of Barangay Atbu

The “Tungtongan” has emerged as a traditional practice among the Kalanguya people in settling disputes because of its conformity with their quality of life, Sumakay said.

“This is the least expensive judicial system for us since most Kalanguya tribe members only subsist on farming. We cannot hire lawyers and pay court fees,” he said.

Members of the “Tungtongan” are chosen according to their profession. They are young and old Kalanguya who come from religious groups, the academe, police, local government and other professions.

Fair judgment

This way, traditional beliefs and practices are discussed to facilitate the crafting of a fair and proper judgment, Sumakay said.

Most of the cases lodged with the tungtongan do not even reach the Lupong Tagapamayapa (peace and order body) of their barangay council, he said.

Depending on the severity of the cases, the perpetrators are told to comply with the agreement, whether in cash, kind or any means deemed necessary by the families involved and the elders.

“This is also a form of enforcing discipline within our villages and inflicting punishment among perpetrators to refrain from doing the same offense in the future,” Sumakay said.

After an agreement has been made, he said, each party would vow not to repeat the offense.

Sumakay said one of the controversial off-shoots of the “Tungtongan” system in Sta. Fe town happened in 2002 when Vice Mayor Donior Tidang, now a board member, faced a rape complaint.

Easing case backlog

Through the system, Tidang paid P90,000 to amicably settle the case. Since then, 30 cases such as murder, attempted murder and theft, have been settled.

Local court officials also see the practice as a way to declog their dockets, Sumakay said.

The “Tungtongan” was conceived during the time of tribal wars to prevent the escalation of disputes through vengeance.

“Christianity has taught us this peaceful method to preserve our kind and to maintain peace in our villages,” Sumakay said.

Police said non-Kalanguya residents in the town had also recognized the system as a way or settling cases involving the tribe.# tcb/bme/PIA 2 – Nueva Vizcaya

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