Priests, farmers rally in support of Gina Lopez

Cathrine Gonzales
The rally for the environment chief is held on the same day that the environment chief released her department's final mining audit report

PRAYER. Archbishop Ramon Arguelles (second from the right) leads a series of prayer for Secretary Gina Lopez and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources. All photos by Cathrine Gonzales

MANILA, Philippines – Around a hundred priests, lay ministers, and farmers gathered at the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) on Thursday, February 2, to rally in support of Environment Secretary Gina Lopez.

The group, led by Archbishop Ramon Arguelles of Lipa, Batangas, claimed that many are calling for the dismissal of Lopez due to her strong views against mining and other environmental issues. (READ: Investors in mining panic over Gina Lopez appointment)

Sinusuportahan po namin si Gina Lopez bilang Secretary ng DENR sapagkat maraming gusto siyang paalisin,” Arguelles said. “Hiling natin kay President Digong na huwag siyang alisin sapagkat makabayan po talaga si Secretary Gina. Iniisip niya ang kapakanan ng mga mahihirap.”

(We support Gina Lopez as Secretary of the DENR because many people want her out. Our request to President Digong is to not remove her because Secretary Gina is really nationalistic. She thinks of the welfare of the poor.)

He also lauded Lopez for “cleaning up” the DENR, adding that some employees of the agency reportedly received bribes under past administrations.

Most of Lopez’s supporters came from Batangas, Laguna, Rizal, Antipolo, and Quezon. Arguelles said that in Batangas, Lopez has always been their partner in fighting mining and quarrying. 

The priests also led a prayer walk from Quezon City Circle to the DENR Central Office for Lopez.

The rally for Lopez was held on the same day that the environment chief released her department’s final mining audit report. (READ: DENR announces closure of 23 mining operations)

People’s ally

Francisca Edma, a 70-year-old farmer from Quezon, expressed her support for Lopez and her advocacies.

Ang nais po namin ay siya na talaga. Kase po sabi niya sa amin, siya ay kapanalig ng mga nag-aalaga ng kalikasan (We really want her [as DENR secretary]. It’s because she said to us that she is an ally of the people in looking after the environment),” she said.

SUPPORT. Priests, lay ministers, and farmers all wore red as they gathered at the DENR Central Office as support for Secretary Gina Lopez.

Edma said  Lopez, through advocacies and projects, will help communities prepare for typhoons, and prevent possible future tragedies. In 2004, Edma nearly lost her entire house due to the extreme flooding caused by a typhoon. 

Natatakot kami kapag sinira ang kagubatan dahil baka umulit na naman ‘yong bahang ‘yon. Maapektuhan na naman ang aming kabuhayan, ‘yong aming lupain doon (We are afraid that if the forest is destroyed, that flooding may happen again. Our livelihood and lands will be affected again),” she said.  

Asked of what she thinks of people who want Lopez’ removal, she said, “Hindi nila maintindihan. Hindi nila maintindihan kung ano ‘yung kalagayan ng mga tao lalo’t higit po sa amin sa kabundukan, ‘yung mga katutubo. Napakalaki pong perwisyo kapag ‘yung aming kabundukan ay nasira.”

(They can’t understand the situation of the people, especially to us who live in the mountains, the indigenous people. If our mountains are destroyed, there would be so much damage.)

Duty to God

For Archbishop Arguelles, fighting for the environment is a duty to God. 

Sana ang mga naiwan dito sa DENR at ipagtanggol talaga (ang kalikasan). Sapagkat ito’y katungkulan natin hindi lamang sa bayan, hindi lamang sa mga papalit sa atin sa mundong ito, kundi sa Panginoong Diyos dahil haharap tayo sa kanya sa darating na panahon,” he said.

(We hope those left in the DENR will really fight for the environment. This is a duty not just to the nation, not just to the next generation, but also to God because we will face him later on.)

case was filed against Lopez before the Ombudsman on January 10, for allegedly ignoring information that the agency’s air quality monitoring machines are defective. Lopez had said that the DENR is investigating the claim. – 

Cathrine Gonzales is a Rappler intern studying journalism at the Polytechnic University of the Philippines.

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