A TRANSFORMATIVE LEADER FOR PEOPLE, PLANET, PROSPERITY AND PEACE

OPINION
By ORLAN R. RAVANERA
June 2, 2021

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COL. BENITO OLEA RAMOS, JR: (Ret)

A TRANSFORMATIVE LEADER FOR PEOPLE, PLANET, PROSPERITY AND PEACE

            “From time to time there appear on the face of the earth men of rare and consummate excellence who dazzle us by their virtue, and whose outstanding qualities shed a stupendous light. Like those extraordinary stars whose origins we are ignorant and whose fate once they have vanished we know even less, such men have neither forebears nor descendants, they are the whole of their race.”

            There is no greater grandeur sight in the world than a great leader, fired with a great purpose, dominated by one unwavering aim – to protect the environment and to serve the poor and the oppressed! I’ve first met Benito Olea Ramos, Jr. when he was the Training Director of the PNP Regional Training Center with a rank then of Colonel. But prior to that, he rose from the ranks with his very satisfactory ratings not only in advancing peace in his area of jurisdiction by stopping armed men to perpetuate commission of crimes even to the extent of putting his life at risk. Upon knowing concrete circumstances of facing so much risk to apprehend criminals as PNP commander, what came to my mind is the truism that says, “no greater love there is than one man ready to give up his life so that others may live!”

            His compassionate pro—people service earned him multiple awards, i.e. Medalya ng Papuri, Medalya ng Kasanayan, Commendation Letters – not only locally but more so internationally when in 2003, he got the United Nations Service Award. His motto in life focuses on service, not only for people to be freed from poverty but amazingly to counter climate change and violent extremism.  Oozing with environmental spirit to stop illegal logging, he has enforced environmental laws, not minding threats to life.  He thought that in this country no one is above the law; all must bow down to the majesty of the law because we follow the rule of law and not of men.  But why did we lost the 17 million hectares of dipterocarp forest when there are laws prohibiting the cutting of trees in highly elevated areas with a topography of at least one thousand meters above sea level or in areas with more than 50% slope gradient.  There are also laws that prohibit the cutting of the finest species of trees such as Red Lauan, Mahogany, Narra as these are the finest of trees not found anywhere else in the world but only in the Philippines. But all of these laws were violated and not a single logger went to prison.  In fact, many of them were elected to high positions i.e., mayor, congressmen, governors, as one shipment of logs would earn a logger 360 million pesos -  money that they used to buy votes or to bribe law enforcers.  But Col. Benito Ramos, Jr. did prove equal to the task of stopping logging despite threats to life.

            During his stint as the PNP Regional Training Director, he would invite me to lecture to PNP Officers to protect our remaining forest. Almost every week, he  would allow me to present to the PNP officials the current state then of the environment as I would show pictures taken from the Philippine Air Force Helicopter hundreds of thousands of denuded areas in the hinterlands of Cagayan de Oro, Iligan and Bukidnon that were the subject of illegal logging by six logging companies in the last 6 decades. That was in 2010, a year before Sendong that took place in December 17, 2011 when some three thousand people died in just one night of flooding.  Our battle-cry then was, stop the environmental bleeding and start the healing of the blighted land or we will all perish.  But no one was listening then including an agency of government whose main task is to enforce environmental laws.  In fact, that agency was telling us that these illegal logging and mining activities must be legalized because they alleged that no one can stop them as these are being done my powerful people or in cohorts with powers-that-be.

            Then horrible Sendong did hit the cities of Cagayan de Oro and  Iligan, to Col. Ramos’ dismay who together with me was re-echoing the horrible consequences of the Filipinos’ environmental neglect. But Col. Ramos, as head of the PNP Regional Training School (RTS) then, mobilized his 300 PNP recruits to help in regaining back decency in what seemed then as the most horrible scenario, i.e., giving assistance to the victims in terms of providing shelters and food, spearheading the rescue operations to save the victims, those who were left stunned, shocked, shaken and helpless; the hurt, harmed, and wounded, and  helping in gathering dead bodies from muddy waters and providing decent burials.

            After his retirement from the PNP, Benito Ramos, Jr. was elected  as a Municipal Councilor of Kalilangan, Bukidnon. Then, began the very amazing performance in serving the poor farmers who are victims of human rights violations. So amazing because there are those who use their power to exploit the poor farmers whose lands are being fenced forcibly by armed groups or land-grabbed and crops destroyed but here is a councilor who is using his position to countervail against the abuses of powers-that-be.  Indeed,  Kag. Ben Ramos, Jr. is correct. A person will be judged not on fame, power or wealth, but on how he has served the least of his brethren.

            In a world that is giving high veneration to the profit-motive that has already captured the mindset of all governments, all institutions, all universities and even of religious groups, here is a sui generis visionary leader who is unfettered from the egoic mind, to liberate the poor and the oppressed from poverty and oppression. I remember the leadership  footprint of an amazing leader in India by the name of Mahatma Gandhi who, a century or so ago, toppled down the most powerful empire then in the world to liberate the Indians from British Colonial Rule, not through armed struggle but through sheer determination to correct social wrong by awakening and empowering the people.  Gandhi’s advocacy was based on the poetic prayer of an Indian Novel Lauriat named Rabindranath Tagore and I quote: “Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high; where knowledge is free; where the world is not broken down by narrow domestic walls.  In that Heaven of Freedom, my Father, Let my people awake.”  Such truism of leadership is the one trail-blazed by an amazing contemporary leader named Col. Benito Olea Ramos, Jr. (ret) now Kagawad Ramos, Jr.

            To Kagawad Benito Olea Ramos, Jr., our firm salute and warm embrace!!


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