Revered Kalinga tattoo artist Whang-od did not consent to teach her craft via Nas Academy's online platform and did not affix her thumbmark to the "grossly onerous" contract, an investigation of a government body for indigenous peoples showed.
The National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) said it would assist Whang-od and the Buscalan community should they decide to pursue legal action. Under Philippine law, an entire community's permission must be secured should an endeavor involve indigenous systems and knowledge.
"Apo Whang-od did not consent or was made aware to teach the Kalinga Art of tattooing in Nas Academy," the NCIP said.
"No provision of the contract was explained or discussed to her or to her representative, or what was assured of her is external to the terms of the contract," it said.
The contract was "grossly onerous" as Nas Academy would have exclusive ownership of any content that would be produced from its show, including Whang-od's likeness, image and voice. The contract also indicates that Singapore laws shall govern it, NCIP noted.
For their investigation, NCIP-CAR regional director Marlon Bosantong headed to Buscalan to personally talk to Apo Whang-od whose real name is Maria Oggay.
Her representative, Stella Palangdao, said the contract was "not explained to them, except that they were made to sign the contract of filming, interview, photography and release of such," the NCIP said.
There was also an "apparent disparity" between Whang-od's thumbmark on a blank sheet of paper during the meeting with the NCIP and the one that appeared on the Nas Daily contract, according to NCIP, noting this is now the subject of further forensic study.
"Visitors who are dealing with Apo Whang-od must be culturally sensitive and shall exert proper and due diligence considering her stature as a culture bearer of the community," NCIP said, again reminding that laws must be properly followed in order to protect and preserve indigenous intellectual property rights.