WHEN Gina Lopez died last Aug. 19 at 65, we lost one of the most admired Filipinos in contemporary Philippine history.
In a time of crass materialism, she taught us the value of idealism. In a time of shameless opportunism, she taught us the importance of principles. And at a time of so much love for power, she taught us the power of love.
At 18, Gina abandoned the comfort and privilege of her affluent family to become a missionary with the Ananda Marga, a global spiritual movement. She served in Europe, India and Africa for more than 20 years. She lived in the slums of Kenya for six years.
When she returned home in the early 1990s, she spearheaded Bantay Bata 163, the country’s first hotline for abused children and a great help to children suffering from various diseases.
Gina’s greatest contribution to her country was her untiring and uncompromising advocacy for our environment. She initiated the rehabilitation of the Pasig River through the Kapit Bisig Para sa Ilog Pasig. In 2010, she was appointed by then President Benigno Aquino III as chair of the Pasig River Rehabilitation Commission which she served with dedication.
Because of her passion and love for the environment, she accepted the offer of President Rodrigo Duterte to be the Secretary of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR). As DENR Secretary, she shut down more than 20 mines and some were suspended due to violations of mining laws.
As an uncompromising Cabinet member, Gina strayed into the Philippine political zoo, traditionally dominated by snakes, crocodiles, tigers and hyenas. These creatures who are masquerading as public servants, waited for their opportune time. The Commission on Appointments (CA) controlled by President Duterte’s loyal followers, rejected Gina’s appointment as DENR Secretary. Her rejection was the triumph of private interests over public welfare. The mining moguls and all anti-environmentalists celebrated their victory.
Countless mourners paid their last respects at Gina’s wake at the ABS-CBN Studio in Quezon City. Nobody saw President Duterte visit the wake of a former member of his official family. But some of those who fought for her rejection in the CA were there and shed copious crocodile tears.
It will take generations before this country can ever produce another public servant like Gina Lopez. In this time of sorrow, we can only pray in silence: “Merciful Lord, having given Gina justice in heaven, have mercy on those who did her injustice on earth!”