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The tungtung system involves oral customary law and has been practiced since time immemorial. Our ancestors have passed down the practice over generations. The system is accepted as partly sacred, especially since it traditionally involved the invocation of spirits and Kabunian. The system has developed over time with the purpose of restoring harmony within the community and our relationship with nature and the spirits. The community’s trust in the system ensures its success.

Social rejection is a standard sanction for the commission of a crime. Guilty parties often find it intolerable to live in a unanimously reproachful community. The tungtung system covers all aspects of bad behavior and the process of determining guilt and punishment is participatory. The community at large hears the case, and judgment is arrived at through a consensus of those present.

A party to a case will raise his complaints with elders, who then bring the matter before other elders. The elders may then talk to the parties and attempt to settle the differences. If no immediate settlement is possible, the parties are brought before the community, where they present their case.

The complainant, may appoint a relative to present the complaint. The other party is then called to argue, deny or admit the complaint.

Both contending parties can argue freely. But any of the elders can speak out to guide and direct the arguments when these are going nowhere or when arguments become heated. The elders or the community folk gathered can reprimand anyone who becomes emotional in the exchange.

Every elder (man and woman alike) who joins in the discussion, actually helps interpret the custom law under the tungtung system. However, the public gathered must be convinced of the interpretation of the custom. Relationships of the contending parties are invoked, in the attempt to make these relationships prevail over the disagreement.

An agreement or decision is made only after both parties have presented their sides and the temper of the discussion has calmed down. At the same time, elders and representatives from both parties come together to arrive at a common decision as to who is guilty among the parties. Decisions are mostly unanimous.

Setting the penalty is also participatory. The party to be penalized may bargain until a final penalty is made.