June 20, 2024

Voters in the remote eastern town of Barlig, Mountain Pro-vince broke the tradition of electing officials, especially mayor, for only one term.

In the May 9 local and national elections, Mayor Clark Ngaya was elected for a second term with 2,370 votes. Although unopposed, he is the first mayor since 1929 to be given a fresh mandate on a reelection.

Based on the 2019 registry of the Commission on Elections, Barlig has 4,050 registered voters.

This unwritten tradition in Barlig traces its roots to an old saying among Cordillerans, “Adi bukbukudan ti gawis,” or loosely translated to mean that a person should not hold on to anything good or pleasant.

Several politicians tried to break this tradition by seeking reelection but no one succeeded except Ngaya.

Currently allied with the Nacionalista Party, Ngaya was a former councilor before he was elected mayor in 2019.

Ngaya is credited for his contributions in improving eco-tourism in Barlig and for his proactive response to the Covid-19 crisis.

But he is not without controversies.

In February 2021, the Third Division of the Sandiganbayan found Ngaya, former mayor Magdalena Lupon, former municipal treasurer Albert Marafo, former vice mayor Edmundo Sidchayao, former councilor Fernando Cablog, and Municipal Engineer Danilo Lucas guilty for graft in connection with the award of government contract using funds donated by GMA 7 and ABS-CBN without public bidding. 

The Courier tried to get an update about the case through Ngaya’s last known number and as published in Barlig’s official website but the number appears inactive.

The Department of the Interior and Local Government-Cordillera is also unaware about Ngaya’s case at the Sandigayanbayan but its public information officer said that without a notice of execution, it can be assumed that the case may have been appealed and Ngaya may still assume post as the verdict does not carry the accessory penalty of disqualification from government service.

Barlig is home to Mt. Amu-yao, one of the highest peaks in the Philippines. It is also known for its forest-clad mountains, rice terraces, and cultural villages.

It is a fifth-class municipality with a population of 4,796 based on the 2020 census. – Rimaliza A. Opiña