Thursday, October 4, 2007

Death of an environment activist

The .38-caliber revolver that cruelly, terribly snuffed out the life of Councilor Armin R. Marin last October 3 may have come from Danao in Cebu, making the murder a migrant.

It may have come from the Armscor shop at the export-processing zone in the Food Terminal in Bicutan, Taguig City, making the vile deed tax-free.

Wherever it originated, in the hands of a devil masquerading as a mining guard, it was a Sibuyan murder, plain and simple, and the murderer, wherever he came from, should be justly punished—in Sibuyan. If the punishment is to be death, although this is no longer feasible, then death should be meted to the criminal in Sibuyan.

The reason is logical. The stench of the crime should not be allowed to escape the pristine Sibuyan air, to prevent other prospective mining communities around the country from getting infected by the disease that the miners and loggers bring; and to forever remind the people of the island that blood had been shed to fertilize Sibuyan soil which—if the logging and mining activities are not stopped—will be barren soon.

Actually, Councilor Marin’s blood has stained not only the soil on which he proudly stood at the moment of his death. It is now in the foreheads of all Romblomanons and, like the mark of Cain, it will hound future Romblon generations. That mark can only be erased once the perpetrator of the crime is punished.

To be blunt about it, that mark can only be extinguished if all of those who played roles in the events that led to the crime are held accountable, starting with Secretary Angelo Reyes whose signature in the logging permits will be hard to deny, and down to the last local official who engaged in double-talk only to covet the material rewards they feel would accrue to them once the loggers and miners have turned up and sucked dry the very last piece of rock of Sibuyan.

By now, Romblomanons and many Filipinos knew the circumstances behind the councilor’s terrible death. Marin, 42, was a long-time environment activist of the Kabang Kalikasan ng Pilipinas, according to Dr. Arthur Tansiongco, who is one of the leaders of Sibuyan Aton Manggad, the non-government organization opposing mining in Sibuyan. Twice defeated while a candidate for councilor in San Fernando, Marin won in the last election because the voters saw in him the quality of a leader who does not blink when it was his principles that were at stake.

He died on his feet, preaching the gospel of environment protection, unlike some pseudo-environmentalists who stood on the campaign stage in the last election to publicly denounce mining and logging, only to chicken out after getting elected and to go to bed with the strangers with bulging pockets.

I mean to be literal about chickening out. Reports had it that some local officials in Sibuyan who are pro-mining (who were most-likely paid in advance by the miners and the loggers in exchange for their endorsement of the rape of the island) are now in hiding for fear of their lives.
They have fear? Ask Mayor Nanette Borda-Tansingco, who was reported to have accosted the hundreds of protestors shortly before Marin was murdered. She should resign, together with her pro-mining and pro-logging officials—if she has any decency or shame left—for Marin’s blood had stained her too.

They have fear? Ask the regional officials of the DENR who, according to my source in Magdiwang, used a helicopter of the miners and loggers a few weeks ago when they came to Sibuyan to attend a pseudo-hearing of the Protected Area Management Board. The hearing, I was told, was a one-eared exercise. Only the miners and the loggers were there to be heard, while the protestors were cordoned off. They should be sacked from their jobs.

“When we were planning the Cantingas Mini-Hydro project which will energize the whole of Sibuyan, the DENR took two months to issue a permit for us to cut just one tree. Now, it only took the DENR a few days to issue a permit to the loggers to cut over 63,000 trees. That’s more than a million board feet in lumber,” rued my source.

The irony is not lost. Even the provincial officials—past and present—have closed their eyes and shuttered their mouths on what’s happening on the island. They have gone on an expense-free tour courtesy of a mining company, supposedly to study best mining practices in Mindanao. Now, they should cringe as they realize there is no such thing as best mining practices if the murder of Councilor Marin would be the gauge.

The people opposing the rape and degradation of their homeland are left to fend for themselves. Not even a public word from Rep. Eleandro Madrona has been heard as of this writing to denounce the murder—and the logging and the mining that will soon strip the island naked. And where are the local officials of the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples who should be there to protect the IPs? Still sitting comfortably in Odiongan? They should explain themselves sensibly, if they are capable of doing so.

In the discussion boards over the Internet, Romblomanons abroad who are active in social and other issues are worried—very worried—over what happened, but only few have expressed outrage. Most only issued peremptory words of condolences to the family of the slain activist. Save for RDL-CLEAR which issued a call to raise money to help, most of the exchanges in the Internet dwelt on whether the Sibuyan Naval Battle, which anniversary is fast approaching, is the greatest in the world: trivial and detached and far-off from the gripping reality that death, the kind that only miners and loggers are capable of contemplating, is now stalking the island’s inhabitants.

This seeming indifference, this cold detachment from reality, which is also one of the cultural attitudes that the slain Marin sought to change, is more lethal than the murder itself. It is so because our indifference to what’s happening in Sibuyan could and will be interpreted by the loggers and miners and their cohorts as a kind of capitulation, an admission, that we are unable to do anything outside of our silent protestation of their immoral business.

You want proof of this indifference? Go visit the website of Sibuyan Aton Manggad. Only about 30 have signed the online petition against mining in Sibuyan, many of whom, I can see from their surnames, are not themselves even from Sibuyan.

You want proof of this apathy? Read the papers. The most strident voices raised thus far against the murder of Councilor Marin came not from the local officials of Sibuyan. They came from environmental activists and groups outside of Sibuyan.

Still, I am convinced that the death of Armin Marin will be a catalyst. It will be pivotal in the lonely fight by the Sibuyanons against the intruders into their homeland. Marin left behind a wife and five children, who will now fend for themselves, with only the heroism of their father as their social capital. At least they have a proud and heroic legacy of a father, unlike the people of Sibuyan who have, apart from having none of a sympathetic government, are now even being threatened with death by strangers in their own land.

The death of Councilor Armin Marin was page-one news in the Philippine Daily Inquirer. This will raise the level of awareness of the Filipino people and highlight the fact that the Gloria Macapagal Arroyo will not balk at another murder of an environmental activist in some distant island to satisfy its avarice for investment money. It has so many deaths already on its hands.

The cold-blooded killing might temporarily upset the momentum of the miners and the loggers, but that’s all it can do. Only temporarily. For when the outrage dies, they will continue their immoral foray into peaceful people’s territories because their greed is without limits. This greed intensifies as local officials serving as accomplices hitch on to their devouring machines.

Councilor Armin Marin was the 23rd victim of this administration’s mining policy. There will be more blood to be shed, that’s my most pessimistic view. On the hopeful side, I wish that with Marin’s murder, the local government finally gets a rap on the head and wakes up on its senses; that the national government recalls the logging and exploration permits it issued without the Sibuyanons’ permission. And on the hopeful side, I wish the mining and logging companies leave Sibuyan alone.

But that’s asking for the moon.

1 comment:

Lester said...

When my friend emailed me about the news, I really felt so bad. It's obvious that Councilor Marin was fighting the good fight. It's an outrage that there are people in our country who believe that they can get away with murder. Justice for Councilor Armin Marin!