In the know: Bukidnon’s Fr. Neri Satur

MALAYBALAY CITY – (Bukidnon News Dispatch/14 October 2011) On Oct. 14, 1991, Fr. Nerilito Satur, 29, and his female aide were ambushed on their way back to Valencia City, then a municipality, after celebrating a mass in Barangay Guinoyoran .

He was shot pointblank with a shotgun after falling from his motorcycle. His head was smashed with a rifle butt. He was 29.

Satur’s assistant was spared by the assailants, although she was wounded in the leg at the first volley of gunfire.

An Army sergeant and a band of local militiamen who were said to be involved in timber smuggling were named as suspects in the incident. But no arrests were made and they were never indicted.

Satur, a forest protection officer deputized by the Department of Environment and Natural Resouces, was killed a few years after the imposition of a logging moratorium in Bukidnon.

In 1988, then environment secretary Fulgencio Factoran Jr. declared a logging moratorium in Bukidnon in the wake of anti-logging protests initiated by the people of San Fernando town which culminated in a hunger strike in Manila.

The church earlier opted for a selective log ban but it was not pursued.

But logging, though on a smaller scale, persisted in Bukidnon even after the logging moratorium was imposed.

In September 1990, Satur was 13th on the list of 45 members of the Bukidnon clergy who were deputized by the DENR as forest protection officers upon request of then Malaybalay Bishop Gaudencio Rosales.

Deputized forest protection officers are authorized to arrest persons who are caught in the act of committing violations against forestry laws and to seize tools and equipment used in the offenses and the forest products taken by the offenders.

A DENR Bukidnon report in 1991 showed that Satur facilitated the confiscation of close to 7,000 board feet of lumber in Valencia.

The priest was the second of seven children of farmer Emeterio Satur and Felicitas Dazo. He began his studies at the Matonggao Elementary School and finished at the Linamon Central School in Linamon, Lanao del Norte.

His family moved to Bukidnon amid the bloody struggle between the Ilaga and the Barracudas.

After graduating from the Pangantucan Catholic High School he was admitted to the Pope John XXIII College Seminary in Malaybalay and finished his studies for priesthood at the REMASE Seminary in Davao City.

The provincial government has declared every October 14 to be commemorated as the Fr. Neri Satur Day in the province.

Bishop Jose Cabantan declared October 16 this year as the Fr. Neri Satur Sunday.

An award called the “Father Neri Satur Award for Environmental Heroism” is being given during the annual Earth Day (April 22) celebration by the Earth Savers Movement, in honor of the slain priest. (Walter I. Balane/Bukidnon News)

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