21 years after Fr. Satur’s death: “Let’s save what’s left of our environment”

MALAYBALAY CITY (Bukidnon News/13 October) Twenty one years after the death of Fr. Neri Satur, the calls are no longer the search for justice for him but justice for what’s left of Bukidnon’s environment, Fr. Robert Selecios, parish priest of Kalasungay’s St. Ignatius de Loyola parish, said.

Selecios organized a 24-kilometer memorial run Saturday from Valencia City to Brgy. Guinoyuran in the city’s upland area where the 29-year old priest was slain by still unidentified gunmen on October 14, 1991.

He said he initiated the run with approval from the diocese’ environmental desk as a follow up of last year’s memorial run which Fr. Satur’s parents graced.

“The challenge is what we can do at present so that his fight won’t be wasted,” he added in a telephone interview Saturday.

He added that a mix of runners from different sectors joined Saturday morning’s memorial run. A short program was held in Guinuyoran to honor the slain priest. On October 14, which was declared as Fr. Neri Satur Day, parishioners in Guinoyuran will hold commemorative program after the regular Sunday mass.

Selecios said October 14 Sunday masses around the diocese will have back to back intentions, for Fr. Satur’s death anniversary and the indigenous people’s Sunday.

The provincial government of Bukidnon also held a tree planting-tree growing activity Friday at the Kaamulan Tree Park. Gov. Alex Calingasan issued Memorandum Order 1134 Series of 2012 for the provincial government employees to remember Fr. Satur’s sacrifice.

The provincial board has declared in an ordinance passed in 2004 to celebrate October 14, as Fr. Neri Satur Day in Bukidnon.

Bishop Jose Cabantan last year said in his pastoral letter released to mark the 20th anniversary that  two decades after his death, Bukidnon’s ecological situation “is perhaps even worse than during his time.

In spite of the imposition of the logging moratorium in the province in 1990, the Malaybalay bishop said, Bukidnon’s natural forests and watershed areas continue to decline.
He noted that in 2005, the estimated remaining forest cover of Bukidnon was only 25 percent of its total land area.

“Sad to say, this alarming percentage is already far lower than the ideal minimum requirement of an ecological balance, especially that Bukidnon crucially serves as a ‘headwater’ province in Mindanao,” he added.

Cabantan stressed the province is continually threatened by the real possibility of water crisis and plagued by various forms of ecological disasters largely due to the insufficient forest cover “that could no longer render its usual ecological services to the community of life.”

The bishop did not only lament on the situation but also offered encouragement on how to address the situation.

He urged parishioners to help continue the slain priest’s mission “to struggle for the liberation of the poor and the integrity of creation.”

On Oct. 14, 1991, Fr. Satur and his female aide were ambushed on their way back to Valencia City, then a municipality, after celebrating a mass in Barangay Guinoyoran.

He was shot with a shotgun at pointblank range after falling from his motorcycle. His head was smashed with a rifle butt.

In September 1990, Satur was 13th on the list of 45 members of the Bukidnon clergy who were deputized by the DENR as forest protection officers upon request of then Malaybalay Bishop Gaudencio Rosales.

In his pastoral letter, which was read in all 49 parishes in the Diocese of Malaybalay, Cabantan challenged the people to renew commitment to continue the unfinished human and ecological struggles of “the Church he died for.”

The bishop called for the people to continually deepen knowledge of the ecological issues, including the phenomenon of climate change and the global ecological crisis.

“We may begin this locally by updating ourselves with the present ecological situation of Bukidnon,” he said.

Satur, he said, was inspired to zealously implement the logging moratorium in the province and religiously performed the task of a deputized forester as integral to his priestly ministry “even at the cost of his own life.” sible stewards of God’s creation.”

Cabantan urged for an education of ecological responsibility by making ecological knowledge available to the grassroots level by producing a module both for the basic ecclesial communities (BECs) and individual families.

Cabantan also pushed for the promotion of “sustainable agriculture” and “agro-forestry” throughout the diocese. He said this will strengthen the advocacy and campaign for a clean environment, free from any harmful chemicals that poison the soil and “threaten the health of the community of life”.

He also urged for an alternative mining bill and called on ecology-friendly movements to embark on legal advocacies that seek the common good both of humanity and the natural environment.

-Walter I. Balane