Saturday, August 4, 2012

The whole truth

My article in the August 5, 2012 issue of Cordillera Today

The Save 182 movement stipulated in court that several protest actions prove that the community is against the removal of trees on Luneta Hill to pave the way for SM City Baguio’s expansion project. The highly-paid lawyers of SM, together with the people’s taxes-paid lawyers for DENR and DPWH, denied it, so we endeavored to prove our claim.

I took the witness stand last week to testify on the community’s opposition to the expansion project of SM City Baguio. I brought with me video footage and photos documenting the various rallies and other protest actions against SM City Baguio, but the court and the defense lawyers prevented me from presenting these, citing various technicalities. I can’t help but be reminded of the infamous brown envelope that brought Joseph Ejercito down. 

Our lawyer then tried to have me testify on the heritage of the city including Luneta Hill. But again, the court and the defense lawyers dismissed whatever I could’ve said on the stand as hearsay, being mainly based on research and studies I made in the production of the video documentary on the history of Baguio City, “Portrait of a Hill Station.” That documentary has been endorsed by the Baguio Historical Society.

Essentially, they claimed that I cannot possibly testify on the history of Baguio City since I wasn’t personally there during the time of Baguio’s genesis as a city. So if any of you know of anyone who was present when Luke E. Wright and Dean Worcester surveyed Kafagway in 1900, please let us know.

They asked me to swear to tell the truth, the whole truth then proceeded to prevent the same from being heard in court.

The testimony that I wasn’t able to present in court, I hereby present to you, the people:

That based on various historical documents, Luneta Hill was the site of the very first structure that the Americans erected in preparation for Kafagway’s transformation into the City of Baguio. That after putting up a sanitarium on Luneta Hill, the city’s pioneers made efforts to beautify the area by planting flower gardens and trees some of which, based on their age, are among the trees that SM intends to uproot for their concrete structure. Luneta Hill, and the trees thereon, are very much part of the city’s heritage, and thus must be protected, defended and preserved.

That on January 20, 2012, thousands of residents took to the streets to voice out their opposition to the project. 

A couple of weeks later, on February 5, 2012, a tree planting activity and concert dubbed “Pine for Pine” hand more than a thousand Baguio lovers planting trees at the Pine Trees of the World Park and more than a hundred local and nationally-renowned artists performing in a concert that was held in protest of the expansion project. 

On Valentine’s Day, hundreds lit candles and joined hands and marched around SM City Baguio during “Jericho Walk” chanting “Boycott SM!” 

That several public demonstrations were held thereafter.

And on the night of April 9, 2012, SM started uprooting trees on Luneta Hill, which enraged concerned citizens who marched to Luneta Hill the following morning in protest. During that rally in the morning of April 10, 2012, our lawyers announced to the public that a Temporary Environmental Protection Order has been issued by the court but SM City Baguio refused to accept or acknowledge it. That same evening, they continued removing trees on Luneta Hill. 

That on April 11, 2012, various groups called for an assembly at the Baguio Cathedral grounds to protest SM City Baguio’s brazen defiance of the court order. Once again, numbering several thousands, the group marched to Luneta Hill to reiterate the community’s opposition not only to the expansion project but to SM’s utter disregard for the law. 

I hereby swear that all of the above information is the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth to the best of my knowledge and belief.

So help Baguio, Kabunyan.

*with photos courtesy of Jojo Lamaria

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