“Environmental heroes and martyrs like Kalinga chieftain Macli-ing Dulag and Calaca fisherfolk leader Erning Castillano sacrificed their lives in the struggles against these destructive projects.”
By DEE AYROSO
MANILA – Environmentalists remembered some of the activists who opposed destructive energy projects during Martial Law, as they campaign against the vice presidential bid of Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr.
Those who fought and fell in the dark days of martial law now serve to remind Filipinos of the Marcos Dictatorship’s legacy of impunity, as the Marcoses and their cronies remain to be accountable for the gross human rights violations, as well as destruction and plunder of the country’s natural resources.
“Environmental heroes and martyrs like Kalinga chieftain Macli-ing Dulag and Calaca fisherfolk leader Erning Castillano sacrificed their lives in the struggles against these destructive projects,” said environmental advocates, in a unity statement signed by at least 19 groups at the Environmental Gathering against the return of the Marcoses to Malacanang held on April 19 at the University of the Philippines-Diliman in Quezon City.
“The environmental crimes committed during the dictatorship are bound to happen again if Bongbong gets one step closer to Malacañang. Until now, Bongbong and the rest of the Marcoses have refused to admit or show remorse over their sins and crimes in the past,” read their unity statement.
Erning Castellano and Noel Malabanan were fishermen of Quisumbing village, Calaca town in Batangas province who became leader-organizers of communities that opposed the construction of the country’s first coal-fired powered plant during martial law.
Faced with strong opposition from Quisumbing village, government transferred the site of the coal plant in nearby San Rafael village. It started operations in 1981.
In 1983, the two men were together when they were accosted by Philippine Constabulary men in Batangas. Malabanan was shot dead, while the suspects took Castellano. He remains missing.
Petti Enriquez of Bukluran para sa Inang Kalikasan (Bukal-Batangas) said some 60 activists were killed as they resisted the Calaca coal plant. She added that whole families became activists as they joined the struggle, and consequently suffered arrest, torture, imprisonment, and enforced disappearance. She named the families of the Lunetas, Suyats, Delicas and Hernandez as among some of them.
In the Cordillera, some 100 indigenous peoples were killed as they struggled against the encroachment into their ancestral lands.
Macli-ing Dulag was the pangat (peace pact holder) of Bugnay village, Tinglayan in Kalinga who rallied the communities against the Marcos Dictatorship’s ambitious Chico River Dam project. The construction of the megadam threatened to submerge Cordilleran ancestral domains in Kalinga, Mt. Province and Cagayan. Their campaign brought world-wide attention to the indigenous peoples’ struggle against various development aggression projects.
On April 24, 1980, Dulag was shot dead in his home by Phil. Army soldiers led by Lt. Leodegario Adalem. Instead of dampening the people’s spirit, Dulag’s death only deepened the people’s commitment, and many elders took up arms and joined the New People’s Army (NPA).
Among them was Pedro Dungoc Sr., a Kalinga teacher who had closely worked with Dulag.
The struggle eventually led to the formation of the Cordillera Peoples Alliance in 1984, which helped bring together the framework for the Cordillera indigenous peoples’ struggle for right to self-determination. The group commemorates Dulag’s heroism yearly through “Cordillera Day” on April 24.
Adalem was meted revolutionary justice by members of the NPA in Tarlac City 20 years later.
Boni Ilagan of First Quarter Storm Movement disputed beliefs that “millenials” – those in their 20s or younger – compose the biggest supporters of Marcos. He said that many of those who came to the younger Marcos ‘s campaign rallies were senior citizens and people who had lived through martial law. People, however, failed to learn the lessons from that dark era because the succeeding governments failed to bring the Marcoses to justice, and worse, continued its policies and programs.
“There is something very wrong with our values system,” Ilagan decried how the younger generation are now being raised without a sense of history.
“But even if Bongbong wins, are we going to stop? I don’t think so. This will only pose a challenge to us to continue to fight for national democracy in our country,” Ilagan said. “After all, we survived martial law. We will overcome,” he said.