Chel Diokno on Whang-Od: Signature Alone Isn't Consent


Human rights lawyer Chel Diokno said Tuesday it would take more than revered tattoo artist Apo Whang-od’s signature to indicate consent to teach in Nas Daily’s online academy.

Diokno said the unraveling of the Whang-od Academy underscored how indigenous peoples are prone to entering into legal agreements without their "genuine" consent. Under Philippine law, an entire community's permission must be secured should an endeavor involve indigenous systems and knowledge.

The National Commission on Indigenous Peoples said Whang-od did not understand the agreement with Nas Academy, who in turn insisted that she signed it with her thumb print and that it was explained to her by a relative.

“I wouldn’t be able to simply rely on a signature. Ang tanong kasi natin dyan ay talaga bang naintindihan niya yung kanyang pinipirmahan niya at yung consequences noon. That’s the real meaning of consent,” Diokno told Summit Sandwich Sessions.

“On paper, it would appear na pumayag ang community, pero pag pinuntahan mo sila, kinausap mo sila, they will say "Wala, hindi naman namin maintindihan, at hindi naman kami nagbigay ng pahintulot dyan,"” Diokno said.

Nas Daily earlier uploaded video proof that Whang-od consented to teach for his online series via a thumb mark as signature, with the help and translation of her niece Estela Baydon Palangdao.

“We have a law that requires free and informed consent before any kind of project can be done within the ancestral domains. But it often happens that the consent that is given is not really 'genuine consent',” Diokno said.


The NCIP also said that Whang-od's thumbprint did not appear to match the one on the contract, which it also described as "grossly onerous".

While signatures affixed on legal documents may mean consent in cities among those in business and government, it’s a different story for a tattoo artist in a far-flung community.

“When we’re talking of a 100 plus year old indigenous person, I think you would really have to dig deeper to determine if there was real consent given,” he said.

This story originally appeared on Reportr.World.

* Minor edits have been made by the editors.

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