DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 04 May) — “A sad day for the country,” was how Mindanawons described the Commission on Appointments’ rejection of the appointment of Environment Secretary Gina Lopez.
“It’s a sad day for the country. Gina Lopez represents the aspirations of the poor who are directly or indirectly affected by man-made environmental degradation. It challenges us to question the sincerity of this administration to bring about genuine change. Obviously, unholy alliances, business interest, political power prevailed over the sense of social justice,” Fr. Raymond Ambray, parish priest of Lingig in Surigao del Sur said.
But Ambray told MindaNews that everything is not lost. “They failed to quash the dreams of fisherfolk for abundant yields, or the farmers’ desire for enough water supply, or the IPs’ dream of self-determination.”
He said the the rejection of Lopez “calls all the more for a unified, firm and sustained struggle to defend the integrity of the environment. We will continue to oppose mining industry’s selfish exploitation of our country’s natural resources.”
Supporters of Lopez in Davao City staged a rally at the steps of the Roxas entrance of the Ateneo de Davao University’s Jacinto campus while a candle-lighting ceremony was held at the Immaculate Conception Parish Quadrangle in Cantilan, Surigao del Sur.
“Feeling empty, depressed, shaken, angry! Totally machinated! I have no single thread of trust left in you. It was your (PDut) pocket or the environment – and your pocket won!” said Emma Hotchkiss, an environmentalist from Cantilan.
“His will was done! Sorry Ms Gina Lopez. He did not want her,” Hotchkiss said.
Dr. Joy Mirasol, Bukidnon State University Vice President for research and extension said she felt “sad because she can no longer pursue under her command programs that will promote social justice and reduce the suffering of the poor brought about by unsustainable natural resource extraction and practices.”
Mirasol said she hopes the next Environment Secretary “will have the same or more courage and political will to implement environment laws.”
Roderico Bioco, President, Bukidnon Kaamulan Chamber of Commerce and Industry Inc. said Lopez has passion and conviction “but that is not enough to run a government agency. She has to have command of the rule of law. Her insistence on Secretary’s prerogative might have caused her position.”
Bishop Jose Cabantan of the Diocese of Malaybalay in Bukidnon said: “I am sad together with the Episcopal Commission on Indigenous Peoples – Mindanao. We had expressed our support for her as DENR Sec and her travails at the hands of the Commission on Appointments. It is really a loss in our struggle to promote and defend ecological justice as well as social justice.”
“Nevertheless we should not stop in our task as stewards to promote integral ecology,” he said.
Fr. Joel Tabora, President of the Ateneo de Davao University urged President Duterte “to reappoint Sec Gina for the sake of the environment and the common good” but since he cannot anymore, “then let him take over DENR,” he told MindaNews.
On Facebook, Tabora wrote: “Let President Digong run the DENR himself as he’d originally intended. Gina Lopez can assist him! No need for a CA approval here!”
Supporters of Lopez in Davao City, among them members of the Ateneo community and the Sustainable Davao Movement staged a lighting rally at the steps of the Roxas Avenue entrance in Davao City. “Shame on you CA,” “No Change in DENR,” “Gina is a gift,” “Where is Common Good?” were among the messages aired.
“We’ll continue the good fight of SecGina in protecting the environment. Thanks for those who joined the lightning rally. PRRD should either force a Supreme Court decision by insisting on his power to re-appoint or he takes over DENR and name SecGina as Undersecretary,” Romeo Cabarde, Director of the Ateneo Public Interest and Legal Advocacy Center.
Fr. Rey Raluto, Academic Dean and Theology teacher at the St. John Vianney Theological Seminary in Cagayan de Oro City said the rejection of Lopez was “a very sad and disappointing news.”
He said environment advocates “lost a courageous voice from above.”
Raluto added that “the struggle for integral ecology must continue from below but it would be more difficult now without the DENR Secretary like Gina Lopez. It’s now like baking a ‘bibingka’ with only fire from below.”
Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate expressed “grave disappointment,” calling the rejection “a blow in the fight against the plunder of our natural resources and protection of our environment.”
“We hope that the Palace will appoint a successor that will also approximate if not exceed Secretary Gina’s ardent advocacy for the environment and no nonsense fight against destructive mining and corporate greed,” Zarate added. (Carolyn O. Arguillas and Walter Balane / MindaNews)