Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Still Confused About What's Happening In Santo Tomas? Then This Forum Is For You.

The statesman and former President of the United States Franklin Delano Roosevelt once said "The only sure bulwark of continuing liberty is a government strong enough to protect the interests of the people, and a people strong enough and well enough informed to maintain its sovereign control over the government." In light of these strong words, we remind the reader of the massacre of trees in Mount Santo Tomas. Said environmental crime was allegedly the handiwork of no other than Nicasio Aliping Jr., the top government leader in these parts of the land.

The irony here is obvious. We have a Congressman who was confident enough to burn and cut trees, wound the earth, and pollute the water springs. All these were done without the necessary permits from concerned agencies like the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB). And for what? An eco-park, the embattled solon said in a recent conference. That's tantamount to saying let's cut a swath through the Amazon forest to establish an eco-park.

Aliping's defensive statements after the issue broke out were also rife with contradictions. He stated on television that the project was by Brian, a brother of his currently based in the United States. It turned out that the project was actually by him. He owns property in the forest reserve (although the municipality of Tuba says there are no documents for such). And in the recent conference we mentioned earlier, Aliping went as far as saying that it wasn't his project that was responsible for the destruction in the reserve. If we recall it correctly, he mentioned private miners, farmers, and some sort of a road widening project.

It would be unwise to fully slap Aliping in the face. Charges have been filed against him but these do not equate to truth. Not yet. Maybe private miners are partly to blame. Maybe small farmers are partly to blame. Maybe that road widening thing is partly to blame. We have yet a lot to know before we can say that it's about time that Aliping be walked to the gallows. However, we can't just set aside the mounting evidence that points to Aliping as the big bad wolf. And it's our right and responsibility as occupants of these parts of the land to make the big bad wolf answer to all the allegations.

We go back to the words of Roosevelt and reflect a little. When Aliping cut through Mt. Sto. Tomas, was he protecting the interests of the people or the interests of himself or that of his brother (whoever really is behind the project)? The other question to ask would be are the people of Baguio and Tuba "strong enough and well enough informed to maintain its sovereign control over the government"? Such a question brings us to an upcoming forum to be held at the University of The Philippines Baguio. Said forum will tackle the Santo Tomas issue. This is worth-attending because the more informed you are about what's happening to your land, what the government is doing to said land, and what government leaders are doing to said land, the more power you have to ensure that the rule of law is upheld. That leaders do not overstep. That leaders don't use the gift of power given to them by the public to serve their own interests.

Everyone is invited to this forum. The date to mark on your calendar is July 12. Forum starts at 2 PM and ends at 5 PM.