Task Force Kinaiyahan Brings Back Rule of Law
Kim’s Dream Orlan Ravanera
It was so amazing that in 2013 thru the initiative of environmental groups, non-government organizations and Task Force Macajalar, an environmental movement for peace, justice and sustainability which together formed an environmental coalition called Sulog, “One Sendong is Enough”, the Court of Appeals has issued a Writ of Kalikasan. The Writ which is the third of its kind in the entire country, has ordered ten (10) agencies of the government, namely, the DENR, EMB, MGB, NBI, AFP, PNP, Bureau of Immigration and LGUs of Cagayan de Oro, Iligan and Misamis Oriental and to be participated-in by Civil Society through the Sulog Coalition, to carry-out the Writ of Kalikasan.
The Writ of Kalikasan and the Writ of continuing mandamus are contained in the Supreme Court’s en banc resolution which is a remedy available to “natural or juridical person entity authorized by the law, people’s organization, non-governmental organization, or any public interest group.” In implementing the Writ, the implementing agencies together with SULOG has joined hands in forming TASK FORCE KINAIYAHAN whose monthly meeting is presided by Sulog Chairman who was then the USEC/Chairman of the Cooperative Development Authority. Some of those meetings saw the attendance of Atty. Ipat Luna who represented then Sec. Gina Lopez and Usec. Halmen Valdez, The Deputy of Sec. Leoncio Evasco, then Malacañang’s Chief of staff. Task Force Kinaiyahan is the implementing force of the writ and the Court of Appeals ordered the 10 agencies of government with utmost urgency, sincerity and resolve to arrest serious environmental degradation and its concomitant impact upon the livelihood and integrity of the natural ecosystem.
The Writ came about because of the horrible occurrence of Typhoon Sendong which on December 17, 2011 brought havoc to the cities of Cagayan de Oro & Iligan with 3,000 people dead who were living in the vulnerable areas and some 11,000 families rendered homeless. No less than then Cong. Rolando “Klarex” Uy helped in building housing projects to the homeless victims in Mambuaya, Cagayan de Oro in partnership with benevolent cooperatives.
In its 6-year operation from 2013 to 2019, Task Force Kinaiyahan has not only established Check Points but conducted operations to arrest illegal loggers and miners including Chinese whose only basis of entry in the country is a tourist visa. Somehow, the courage, integrity and passionate law enforcement activities of the 10 agencies of government & Sulog has given notice to one and all that when the rule of law prevails, environmental damages of such magnitude as horribly manifested by ecological disasters to prejudice life, health and property of inhabitants can be stopped. In fact, Iponan River which all these years has been described as a “chocolate river” has been cleared of massive siltation, manifesting the miraculous performance of the Task Force.
While the rule of law has prevailed because of the passionate law enforcement of the mandated 10 agencies of government, what was so painful was the murder of Datu Fausto Orasan known as Datu Sandigan, the Higaonon Tribal Chieftain of Cagayan de Oro, for helping in law enforcement. He was killed sometime in 2014 one Sunday morning while riding in his motorcycle to monitor illegal mining activities. So far, no killer has been arrested. Datu Sandigan was our colleague in Sulog, a civilian volunteer at that! Until now, we cry for justice on the brutal killing of our dear environmental colleague.
The Writ came about because all those years prior to Sendong, massive illegal logging and mining have destroyed the ecosystems, rendering some 200,000 hectares denuded in the uplands of Cagayan de Oro, Iligan and Bukidnon. Six logging companies, holders of Timber License Agreements (TLAs), could not moderate their greed as one shipment of logs alone would earn a logger some 360 million pesos which made the loggers so rich, putting shamelessly the truism that “economic power begets not only political power but legal power or judicial power as well.”
Indeed, no such thing as rule of law on logging or mining. Don’t you know that there are laws that prohibit logging in forestal areas located in an altitude higher than 1,000 meters above sea level or in slopy areas with more than 50% gradient? Well, apparently the dipterocarp forest that they have erased from the face of the earth were in those prohibited zones. In fact, a powerful logging company had established a sawmill in the middle of the forest that no one can enter as the area had been fenced with armed guards.
The Philippines, being a tropical country, was then oozing with the finest of trees in the world which were only found in the Philippines, i.e., red lauan, narra, mahogany, almaciga, etc. and there are laws that prohibit their cutting. PERO NAUBUS DIN! Indeed, our dipterocarp forests had been plundered, sacrificed to the altar of greed, profit and power in cohort with those task to enforce environmental laws.
As regards mining, while Bohol has “chocolate hills,” Cagayan de Oro has “chocolate river,” the Iponan River which had been carrying thousands, if not millions of tons, of siltation that has killed Macajalar Bay. No way can the mangroves and coral reefs survive the onslaught of these massive siltation. Why is this so? Hydraulic mining, open-pin mining and mining operations using buck-hoes and heavy equipment were then the order of the day on mining, even perpetuated by Chinese miners who were only holders of tourist visa.
Based on these bitter realities, to bring back the rule of law, we in Task Force Macajalar have stage direct actions through human barricades from 1991 to year 2000. But people power is not just enough. Thus, our lawyers led then by no less Atty. Batin Ravanera Bago who is a known international environmentalist took the cudgel with other lawyers to appeal for the Writ of Kalikasan.
As illegal mining operations are now resurging in Opol and in Iligan City, there is therefore an imperative need with sense of urgency to re-activate Task Force Kinaiyahan as requested by no less than the honorable Mayor of Cagayan de Oro City and the amazing City Environment Officer, Engr. Armen Cuenca. Let notice be served to one and all that in a Republican and Democratic State, 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!