Illegal loggers murder priest

Wednesday, November 20, 1991

Philippines logging companies, together with sections of the military, are suspected of involvement in the murder of an environmental activist, Father Nery Lito Satur.

Father Satur, a parish priest from Valencia in Mindanao, was killed on October 14 by three men. One of his attackers was a soldier, and the other two were criminals involved in illegal logging. A university student accompanying Father Satur was wounded in the leg.

Satur was one of 45 priests, deacons and local citizens deputised as forest officers by the Department of Environment and Resources to arrest illegal loggers. In July, he had helped seize three truckloads of timber and arrest the responsible loggers.

According to the Asian Centre for the Progress of Peoples (ACPP), many church workers fighting illegal loggers in Mindanao have been harassed, threatened and even killed. Among those killed was Father Mario Estorba, a parish priest from Agusan del Sur, who was gunned down on July 1, 1988. The murder remains unsolved.

In 1987, Father Patrick Kelly of Bukidnon was arrested by the military after he led a human barricade to stop logging trucks. Logging operations were eventually stopped in this area. Father Bernando Amoroso, from Davao City, received death threats last July after leading a campaign against a logging firm.

The ACPP is asking for letters to be sent to the Philippines government calling for an investigation into the killing of Father Nery Lito Satur and for adequate protection of people appointed to guard the forest against illegal logging. Letters should be addressed to: President Corazon Aquino, Malacanang Palace, Manila, Philippines.

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