THE NATIONAL Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) said Whang-od Oggay, the oldest living traditional whatok (hand-tapped tattoo) artist, did not consent to teach the craft online through a vlogger’s site with students to be charged P750 each.    

In a press release late Sunday, NCIP said the finding came after a personal interview by the agency’s Cordillera regional office with Whang-od, her family, and leaders of the Butbut tribe in Kalinga along with a review of the contract with Nas Academy owned by vlogger Nuseir Yassin.   

Mr. Yassin has taken down the course on Aug. 5 but asserted that he had the tattoo master’s consent after Whang-od’s grandniece Gracia Palicas called out the move as a “scam.”   

NCIP also said that the contract terms of Nas Academy were “grossly onerous” for Whang-od.  

“The contract states that the Nas Academy has exclusive ownership of any content that the show would produce… including the right [to] alteration and the right to assign and transfer the same without consent. Furthermore, the law of Singapore shall govern said contract,” the agency added.   

NCIP further said there was also an apparent disparity in the thumb mark allegedly affixed in the contract to a print affixed by Whang-od herself in a clean sheet of paper.    

Following these findings, NCIP reminds the public that those who wish to conduct research or activities with indigenous communities should seek their consent along with notification to the agency and local government units.    

NCIP also said that it will provide legal assistance for Whang-od and the Butbut tribe if needed.    

“The art of tattooing is a cultural expression and it is practiced by the indigenous people of the Kalinga. Teaching of said cultural manifestation or expression in an open platform accessible to millions of people would render it generic and thus it would lose its authenticity and cultural meaning,” NCIP said.   

Nas Academy in a statement on Monday said that the investigation by the NCIP was one-sided, adding that they were ready to cooperate with the agency.    

They also said that a local production company was outsourced for the online course in which they were expected to conduct due diligence under Philippine law.     

“We spent 2 full days filming with Whang-Od and (her niece) Estela (Palangdao). There were more than 7 people involved in this process, and Estela set-up a bank account to receive the funds from the project. It is very very hard for Whang-Od Academy to exist without the consent of Whang-Od and her family,” Nas Academy said.   

Antique Rep. Lorna Regina “Loren” B. Legarda has pushed for Congress to swiftly pass House Bill 7811 or the Traditional Property Rights of the Indigenous Peoples (IP) Act to strengthen IP protection following the incident. — Russell Louis C. Ku