GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews / 10 February) — Outspoken Bishop Emeritus Dinualdo Gutierrez, who headed the Diocese of Marbel for almost four decades, died Sunday morning at a hospital here due to a lingering illness. He was 79.
Gutierrez, the third Bishop of the Diocese, suffered from prostate cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Years prior to his death, he was seen attending events with a small oxygen tank always ready at his side.
He was named Marbel bishop on November 15, 1982, the first Filipino bishop appointed in the diocese earlier under Passionist missionaries Quentin Olwell, (1961-1969) and Reginald Arliss (1970-1981).
Gutierrez led the opposition against the Tampakan project, the largest known undeveloped copper-gold project in Southeast Asia pursed by Sagittarius Mines, Inc. (SMI).
SMI’s bid to excavate the deposits has been hobbled by the open-pit mining ban of South Cotabato province, which Gutierrez had strongly backed on concerns over the environment and food security.
Under President Rodrigo Duterte, Gutierrez was among the bishops that castigated the government’s deadly war against illegal drugs.
Marbel Bishop Cerilo “Allan” Casicas confirmed the passing his of immediate predecessor.
“It is with great sadness that I announce the death of Most Rev. Dinualdo Gutierrez, Bishop-Emeritus of Marbel,” Casicas said.
Gutierrez, who was born on February 20, 1939, passed away at 5:03 a.m. at the General Santos Doctors’ Hospital.
“Please pray for the repose of his soul,” Casicas urged the faithful.
Gutierrez served as chair of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines’ National Secretariat for Social Action.
He stayed on as bishop after the retirement age of 75. Casicas formally replaced him in July last year.
Marbel diocese has pastoral jurisdiction over the provinces of South Cotabato, Sarangani and parts of Sultan Kudarat.
Father Ariel Destora, director of the Social Action Center of the Diocese of Marbel, said the diocese lost a great religious leader and environmental defender with the death of the bishop.
“He was a strong advocate against open-pit mining as well as the rights of children in conflict with the law,” Destora said.
Destora said the wake for the prelate will be held at the Christ the King Cathedral in Koronadal City. (Bong S. Sarmiento / MindaNews)