DINALUPIHAN, Bataan- Four Aetas, three of them women, on Monday took their oath as new members of the barangay and municipal councils in Dinalupihan, Bataan.
Joel Abraham as councilor or member of the Sangguniang Bayan and village councilman or kagawad; Ramelita Arojado of Tubo-Tubo; Olivia Clemente of Payangan and Esmeralda Garcia of Bayan-Bayanan took their oath before Dinalupihan Mayor Maria Angela “Gila” Garcia after the flag-raising ceremony.
They all belong to the Aeta Ambala tribe.
“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 Sangguinang Barangay at Sangguniang Bayan,” the mayor said.
Garcia said 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.
“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 Aeta councilor said that there are more or less 7,000 hectares of ancestral domain in Dinalupihan where about 1,000 Aetas reside.
Lawyer Onid Daquioag, NCIP Region 3 Director, said the selection of the Aeta officials was culture-based depending on tradition. “They passed proper and rigid validation and consultation.”
He said Dinalupihan is the first in Bataan but that other towns will follow. “I have already issued affirmation for Aeta officials in the towns of Morong, Limay and Bagac and also for a member of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan in Bataan,” Daquioag said.
This, he said, is under the Indigenous Peoples Mandatory Representation Act.