Nas Academy on Monday blamed "internal disputes" for the unraveling of its partnership with revered tattoo artist Whang-od, as it rejected the National Commission on Indigenous People's findings that its contract with the 104-year-old was "grossly onerous".
The online learning platform of vlogger Nas Daily said it filmed with Whang-od and her niece, Estela Baydon Palangdao, for two full days. "It is very very hard for Whang-Od Academy to exist without the consent of Whang-Od and her family," it said.
"We think this issue is the result of internal disputes that are outside of our control. That being said, we remain committed to our mission in the Philippines," it said.
The contract was "presented and translated" to Whang-Od by her niece Palangdao and the tattoo artist's brother, Rudy, Nas Academy said. Whang-od stood to receive "shared revenue" from the project and Estela was tasked to set up a bank account to receive the money, it said.
The NCIP said Whang-od did not understand the contract and did not consent to have her craft featured on Nas Academy. It also said that Whang-od's thumbprint did not appear to match the one on the contract.
Nas Academy earlier released video of Whang-od affixing her thumb print to the document. It also said the NCIP did not give it the opportunity to reply before coming out with a press statement late Sunday night.
"This is not how a fair investigation is held. Both sides must be heard to reach a fair and informed conclusion.We regret the inconvenience made to the public," it said.
Nas Academy said it contracted a local production company, whom it did not identify, to "conduct due diligence and comply with all requirements mandated by Philippine law". Since Whang-od's craft is of the Butbut tribe of Kalinga, the law mandates that it cannot be used without the permission of the entire community.
"We were assured that their group would coordinate with Whang-od, her family, and their community," it said.
The Whang-od controversy caused Nas Academy to pause its operations in the Philippines, effectively suspending classes led by 2018 Miss Universe Catriona Gray and TV journalist Jessica Soho.