Bu-lat-lat (boo-lat-lat) verb: to search, probe, investigate, inquire; to unearth facts
Volume 2, Number 31 September 8 - 14, 2002 Quezon City, Philippines
Execs, RPA Accused of Masterminding Timber Massacres in Negros
Local politicians along with police officials have been linked to “timber massacres” by an unlikely source – a leader of the National Democratic Front in Negros. But denunciations have also come from Church leaders, environmentalists and even the local media – prompting demands that the timber poaching be investigated by Malacañang.
Karl G. Ombion and Edgar A. Cadagat
CITY - As the finger-pointing continues over the timber massacre in the mountain
town of Don Salvador Benedicto, Negros Island, National Democratic Front of the
Philippines (NDFP) leader Fr. Frank Fernandez accused former town Mayor Nehemias
Dela Cruz and his wife, Mayor Cynthia Dela Cruz, of being directly involved in
the continued timber poaching.
came in the wake of speculations as to who are behind what has become known as
the "worst forest massacre" to occur in the country in recent years. A
protest caravan was also held on Saturday (September 7) and was joined by about
5,000 Church people, environmentalists, journalists, human rights activists,
militant groups as well as a contingent of police personnel.
said that the "multi-million peso illegal logging operations in the
northeast side of Canlaon is the conjugal ownership" of the Dela Cruzes who
are also the "brains, financier and employers of the illegal logging
business to destroy whatever remains of the island's forests."
copy of Fernandez's statement written in the vernacular was furnished
Bulatlat.com and The Courier. The priest, according to military reports, is the
secretary of the Communist Party’s Negros Island Regional Party Committee.
also lauded Bacolod Bishop Vicente Navarra, the mass media, environment
advocates and progressive groups in defending the country's patrimony that
"is being destroyed by big comprador landlords and foreign
traced the illegal logging trail, from the mountain town to San Carlos City and
to Bacolod where the hot logs, he said, are sold to a "big lumberyard"
in San Carlos or to a lumberyard in barangay Sum-ag in Bacolod.
as the NDFP leader denounced the Dela Cruzes, he also exposed the
"deceptive moves" of Negros Occidental Gov. Joseph Marañon, Col.
Alphonsus Crucero, then provincial director, Senior Supt. Geary Barias, and the
paramilitary Revolutionary Proletarian Army (RPA), a splinter of the New
People's Army (NPA). He claimed that they "tried to absolve themselves from
any criminal accountability in the illegal logging operations" that have
been taking place in the DSB village of Bagong Silang.
fact, Fernandez said, when the illicit activities were exposed, "ordinary
logging workers, chainsaw operators and (Bagong Silang village chief Vicente)
Oti Bacordo" became "sacrificial lambs" in order to cover up for
Fernandez said, became the overseer of the timber poaching while the RPA,
authorized by Marañon, acted as a security force to prevent the intervention of
the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).
NDFP leader also accused former DSB Mayor Nehemias Dela Cruz of forging
"arrangements" with Crucero and Barias and military and police
detachment commanders so they would become "cooperative and tolerant"
of the illegal logging operations.
NDFP official said that Marañon should also be held accountable for
"criminal negligence and tolerance" of the crimes of the Dela Cruzes.
could be held accountable to a certain degree as an accomplice of the illegal
logging operations," Fernandez said because "despite his knowledge of
the timber poaching he showed inutility that was a result of the lack of
political will to go against a trusted man (of former Amb. Eduardo Cojuangco
Jr.) despite his being a governor and chairman of the (anti-illegal logging)
Task Force Ilahas."
said Marañon hesitated in pinpointing Dela Cruz as one of the masterminds
behind the timber massacre and in conducting a probe against Crucero, Barias and
the leadership of the RPA despite evidence gathered by the Provincial
Environment and Management Office (PEMO).
has continued to cover up and accommodate the maneuvers of criminals by making
oblique statements over the media and arresting small fries and by continuing to
use the RPA as forest guards while passing the responsibility of conducting a
probe to the national government," he added.
Marañon denied Fernandez’s charges and asked him prove his accusations
against the "masterminds" of the timber massacre in the mountain town
of Don Salvador Benedicto.
Negros governor said he was not affected by the brickbats he was getting from
the revolutionary leader, the second on the timber poaching issue so far, as he
added that he is even willing to ask Malacañang to grant any potential witness
or witnesses immunity if necessary.
stressed that the provincial government is not sleeping on the job but has been
hard put looking for witnesses to testify in the case against suspect timber
this developed, TVDC research showed that almost all opinion makers, community
leaders, the church and the media, have come out publicly in denouncing the
timber poaching activities which had wiped out close to 70 hectares of forest in
the town, part of what is known as the Northern Negros Forest Reserve (NNFR).
protest caravan vs timber massacres
a related development, Bacolod Bishop Vicente Navarra called for the swift
prosecution of the culprits behind the Don Salvador timber massacre as he scored
the DENR for neglect in preventing the widespread felling of trees.
than 5,000 Church people, activists and environmentalists joined the protest
caravan to the mountain town to denounce the seemingly unstoppable felling of
trees that has, based on initial estimates, reached more than 600,000 board feet
of timber and cleared at least 50 hectares of forest lands, ironically, within
the NNFR in the town.
in his homily before caravan participants and residents of the upland town 40
kilometers from Bacolod, also called on municipal officials and townfolk to
"wake up" and oppose the forest destruction in their homefront.
Aniceto Buenafe, director of the Social Action Center (SAC), also slammed at
insinuations that politicians are behind the holding of the caravan.
was planned and agreed upon by leaders of the Church, non-government
organizations and those from civil society; there is no politics behind
this," Buenafe said in response to statements that politics is playing a
hand in the mass action.
caravan, led by the SAC, media organizations and cause oriented groups, gathered
close to 200 vehicles that took off from the Bacolod Public Plaza around 7:30
the way, they were greeted with cheers by people and students who lined the road
in Murcia town and waved flaglets as a sign of support for the campaign to
protect the environment.
police chief, Senior Supt. Vicente Ponteras also joined the caravan. A V150
Armored Personnel Carrier led the pack while the Army's 303rd Infantry Brigade
also sent some of its personnel to beef up security for the caravan amid fears
that "saboteurs" would cause trouble.
from the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan)-Negros and the women's alliance,
Gabriela, also joined the protest caravan.
was apparent yesterday, however, was the absence of DSB Mayor Cynthia Dela Cruz
who, a day before the caravan, said she would be welcoming it with "arms
Cruz reportedly left for Manila on the day of the mass action while her son,
Vice-Mayor Marxlen Dela Cruz, reportedly adjourned the session of the town
council when the caravan was on its way to Don Salvador.
The protest action was also supported by the environmental group Kamagong, the Promotion of Church People’s Response, Cobra-Ans and the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines-Negros. Bulatlat.com