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

MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/14 October) — Twenty one years after the ambush-slay of Fr. Nerylito Satur, the calls are no longer the quest for justice for him but to save 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’s environmental desk as a follow up to 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.

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, on October 14, 1991.

A year earlier, Satur was among 45 members of the Bukidnon clergy who were deputized by the DENR as forest protection officers upon the request of then Malaybalay Bishop Gaudencio Rosales.

Selecios said runners from different sectors joined Saturday morning’s memorial run. A short program was held in Guinuyoran to honor the slain priest.

Selecios said  masses around the diocese on Sunday, October 14, are for two occasions: Fr. Satur’s death anniversary happens to be Indigenous Peoples’ Sunday, too.

The provincial government of Bukidnon also held a tree planting activity Friday at the Kaamulan Tree Park to honor Fr. Satur’s sacrifice. The provincial board declared in a 2004 ordinance 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 Fr. Satur’s 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 continued to decline.

“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 found the situation lamentable 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.”

Cabantan challenged the people to renew commitment to continue the unfinished human and
ecological struggles of “the Church he died for.”

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.”  (Walter I. Balane / MindaNews)