Top officials from the National Commission on Indigenous People (NCIP), Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), Philippine National Police (PNP), media and local government unit (LGU), witnessed the oath-taking led by Joel Abraham .who sits as member of the Sangguniang Bayan; Ramelita Arojado of Barangay Tubo-Tubo; Olvia Clemente of Barangay Payangan and Esmeralda Garcia of Barangay Bayan-bayanan. Tribal head Danilo Salonga has been appointed earlier as Ex- officio member in the Sangguniang Panlalawigan.
. “Makasaysayan ang araw na ito sapagka’t ito ang unang pagkakataon sa Bataan na magkakaroon ng representasyon ang mahal nating mga kapatid na katutubo sa Sangguninang Barangay at Sangguniang Bayan,” the Mayor said.
Garcia added that the representation of Aetas in local governance was long overdue. “Sa wakas magkakaroon na rin sila ng boses sa pamahalaan.”
The mayor said the tribal councils selected who will represent them while the National Commission for Indigenous Peoples affirmed the decision and approved by the Department of Interior and Local Government.
“Matatanggap din nila ang mga benepisyong tinatanggap ng regular na barangay kagawad at Sangguniang Bayan members,” Garcia said.
The oath taking of the Tribal leaders came after the lady Mayor launched last Saturday the first ever “Barangay Assembly” in her bid to bring the services right directly to the people of this town.
“Mas madaling mabibigyan ng atensyon ang mga karaingan at pangangailangan ng aming mga kababayan kapag kami mismo ang pupunta sa kanilang lugar,” stressed the lady Mayor.
Upon the invitation of Mayor Gila S. Garcia, Governor Abet S. Garcia and DILG Regional Director Florida Dijan joined the Barangay Assembly held at the center of sprawling rice fields in Barangay Pag-asa.
Said barangay assembly, being the first ever to be launched in Bataan, prompted Director Dijan to announce that Barangay Pag asa is a “showcase” due to the unity and active participation of its local officials.
Atty Onid Daquioag, NCIP Regional Director, on the other hand, stressed that Republic Act 8371, provides members of the cultural minority their right to be represented in the barangay and municipal councils as well as in the Sangguniang Panlalawigan, and the selection of the Aeta officials was culture-based depending on tradition. “They passed proper and rigid validation and consultation, pursuant to the Indigenous Peoples Mandatory Representation Act”.
Further, Daquioag said that around 195,000 individuals comprise the NCIP in Central Luzon alone, adding that Dinalupihan is the first in Bataan to implement this, but that other towns will follow. “I have already issued affirmation for Aeta officials in the towns of Morong, Limay and Bagac.
“Ang una kong gagawin ay hingan ng tulong ang mga kasamahan ko sa Sangguniang Bayan na ayusin ang aming ancestral domain o lupang katutubo na matagal nang nakabinbin,” Abraham said when asked what his first move would be.
The new councilor added that there are more or less 7,000 hectares of ancestral domain in Dinalupihan where about 1,000 Aetas reside.
Launching the Barangay Assembly is Mayor Gila’s sincere effort to bring the municipal government closer to her constituents under the “Munisipyo abot kamay ko” program.