Democracy and Citizenship in Indigenous Socio-Political Institutions in the Cordillera: Focus on Sagada, Mountain Province

Jessica K. Carino


While village members in Sagada, Mountain Province do not perceive local institutions and practices in terms of western concepts of democracy and citizenship, comparable indigenous values underlie their socio-political institutions. The dap-ay (ward) and the amam-a (council of elders), for example, encompass the democratic values of consultation, participation in decision-making, consensus-building, representative government and commitment to common good, while simpangbon embodies the concept of citizenship. Moreover, oral tradition and customary law provide the rules for exemplary and acceptable behavior. They guide the operation of the dap-ay and decision-making by the amam-a. These rules and institutions also co-exist with local government structures which, in turn, have not been indigenized to operate within the context of customary laws. In sum, Sagada may not have a formal democratic and representative government, nor a formal conception of citizenship, but the village democracy embodied in the dap-ay and the amam-a, along with the indigenous concept of citizenship as reflected in the simpangbon, have endured for centuries. Less bureaucratic and structured than formal democracy, these institutions have effectively sustained life in the village and helped enhance peace and social justice.


Democracy, Citizenship, Cordillera, Sagada, Mountain Province

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