Veritas Liberabit Vos

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By Orlan R. Ravanera

Kim's Dream

Tuesday, April 22, 2014


MR. CARMELITO Nacabalan, a lumad leader and former kagawad of Dansolihon, an upland barangay that is about fifty kilometers from the city proper, had said the truth in one statement in a public meeting recently in the said barangay, as narrated to me by my by close friend and an environmental ally for the past 25 years, Mr. Edwin Dael of SULOG who is now the City Local Environment & Natural Officer of Cagayan de Oro.

This was that statement: “Naglisod na kaayo ang atong mga kaigsonan karon nga mokita sa pag logging kay magbayad pa kami og P6,000 para sa permit nga ihatag sa DENR didto sa Talakag.”

Upon verification from the Regional Office of the DENR, that permit is just worth P85, that is, if the cutting is legal with prior DENR clearance and that the cutting of trees is done in Talakag, Bukidnon.

However, according to CLENRO Dael, these cuttings are done inside the upland barangays of Cagayan de Oro which are illegal and to make these legal, must be issued permits from DENR Talakag to make it appear that as if the cuttings were done there.

By that statement although innocently uttered by Mr. Nacalaban in the context of “pity the poor because they are not anymore gaining so much from logging as they have to pay big amount for permits,” has in fact told us that there is still a dance called illegal logging and that these are made legal by “dancers” from the DENR who must dance to the tune of money, money, money (they must have made so much rakings already all these years).

That such “dance” called illegal logging between big time illegal loggers i.e.,Vicmar, TIPI, Dacudao, etc. with partners from government agencies and law enforcers which has had happened on for decades is “res ipsa loquitor.” You may ask, why illegal? Well, there are existing laws that prohibit cutting of trees in critical areas that are either more than 1,000 meters above sea level or in slopes that are beyond 50 percent gradient. These laws still exist and are embodied now in Executive Order No. 23 signed by President Aquino that prohibits logging in natural forest.

The several aerial sorties I had (courtesy of environmental allies from the Air Force) over the 150,000 hectares Mt. Kitanglad and Mt. Kalatungan Ranges revealed a horrible scenario of total denudation, yes, not a single tree standing in these ranges that are more than 1,000 meters above sea level. In fact, these areas are more than 3,000 meters above sea level with slopes that have more than 50 percent gradient.

Worse these big time loggers had never complied with the terms embodied in their respective timber license agreements (TLAs) foremost of which is to do replanting. If only they did, then these trees could have absorbed all the rains stopping the occurrence of Sendong.

For several decades, these loggers have violated all these laws, mocking the legal dictum that no one is above the law, that all must bow down to the majesty of the law because we follow the rule of law and not of men.

I could still recall that when these loggers filed a 200 million peso-damage suit against me for mobilizing thousands to barricade logging trucks from 1991 to 1999, and upon entering the courtroom as the accused, I read what is printed on the wall at the back of the Judge’s seat the sentence, “Justice be done though the heavens fall,” I wondered then as I wonder now whether the loggers are above the law. Well, the heavens did not fall then, only the natural forests because the loggers could not moderate their greed.

A former DENR Director told me that the loggers are more powerful than the government and that they could not be stopped. I concluded then as I conclude now that what has been taught us in school that the government is the supreme force that commands all obedience is just rhetorical.

They violated man-made laws but from out of their rakings, formed a strong cabal of vested interest and bingo, they are scot-free. They grossly violated natural law that says “there is no free meal in nature and whatever harm inflicted upon Mother Earth goes back to us,” yet, they are exempted from being harmed by typhoons because they are in their mansions.

Yes, the sins of a few loggers are now visited upon our poor people. Thousands have already died and thousands more will die because the loggers have proven themselves more powerful than the government and because the loggers or their cohorts are still in power.

But the truth is coming out even in a form of an innocent statement from Mr. Nacalaban. I hope Sec. Paje should be made aware the extent of the connivance between illegal loggers and his personnel, not only now but more so, during the heyday of logging. Have we not already lost 17 million hectares of our dipterocarp forests, supplying the timber needs of the world while our people are almost without homes? Why did we allow a few loggers to massively exploit our natural resources and even voted them or their cohorts to office when these are only for us to protect for the coming generations?

Let the truth set us free, especially from ecological disasters. Let the truth speak and perhaps this is what the Truth will say: “My name is Veritas. So simple is my language.

To the loggers, miners and their cohorts, I am a threat so I have to be buried in a dungeon to silence me. But there will always be lovers who will seek and even die for me because they cannot live without my presence. The loggers and miners do not know that in the silence and darkness of the dungeon I gain strength.

One day, I will burst out in the open and take vengeance against those who have wantonly exploited the environment that resulted in the deaths of thousands.” Indeed, Veritas Liberabit Vos.

Published in the Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro newspaper on April 22, 2014.

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