Masses, tree planting to mark 19th death anniversary of environmentalist priest

MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/13 October) – Parishioners from around Bukidnon will mark the 19th death anniversary on Thursday of slain priest Fr. Nery Lito Satur by planting indigenous tree species in an area dedicated to him in Barangay Patpat in this city and in other
areas of the 47 parishes comprising the Diocese of Malaybalay, the church-run radio station dxDB announced.

Simultaneous masses will be held around the province before the tree planting activity, the announcement added.

The area to be planted in Patpat is the site of a reforestation project dedicated to Satur which started last year.

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 pointblank with a shotgun after falling from his motorcycle. His head was smashed with a rifle butt. He was 29.

Satur’s assistant was spared by the assailants, although she was wounded in the leg at the first volley of gunfire.

An Army sergeant and a band of local militiamen who were said to be involved in timber smuggling were named as suspects in the incident. But no arrests were made and they were never indicted.

Satur, a forest protection officer deputized by the Department of Environment and Natural Resouces, was killed a few years after the imposition of a logging moratorium in Bukidnon.

In 1988, then environment secretary Fulgencio Factoran Jr. declared a logging moratorium in Bukidnon in the wake of anti-logging protests initiated by the people of San Fernando town which culminated in a hunger strike in Manila.

The church earlier opted for a selective log ban but it was not pursued.

But logging, though on a smaller scale, persisted in Bukidnon even after the logging moratorium was imposed.

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.

Deputized forest protection officers are authorized to arrest persons who are caught in the act of committing violations against forestry laws and to seize tools and equipment used in the offenses and the forest products taken by the offenders.

A DENR Bukidnon report in 1991 showed that Satur facilitated the confiscation of close to 7,000 board feet of lumber in Valencia.

The priest was the second of seven children of farmer Emeterio Satur and Felicitas Dazo. He began his studies at the Matonggao Elementary School and finished at the Linamon Central School in Linamon, Lanao del Norte.

His family moved to Bukidnon amid the bloody struggle between the Ilaga and the Barracudas.

After graduating from the Pangantucan Catholic High School he was admitted to the Pope John XXIII College Seminary in Malaybalay and finished his studies for priesthood at the REMASE Seminary in Davao City.

An award called the “Father Neri Satur Award for Environmental Heroism” is being given during the annual Earth Day (April 22) celebration by the Earth Savers Movement, in honor of the slain priest. (Walter I. Balane/MindaNews)