November 19, 2018. Manila, Philippines. A police officer charged with 30 harassment cases, a paralegal officer who dedicated most of her life educating fishers about the law, a lady lawyer who leads an all-male environmental enforcement team and a priest who preaches ecological messages in his homilies are among the thirty-four (34) individuals recognized jointly by esteemed Institutions and citizens led by the Office of the Ombudsman and United Nations Environment in last week’s Pasalamat sa Katauhan Awards. The event was organized by Oceana, Integrated Bar of the Philippines-Cebu Chapter and Phil. Earth Justice Center.
Established in 2017, the Pasalamat sa Katauhan Award gives recognition to individuals, agencies and organizations who contribute to the conservation and protection of natural resources and life support systems.
Atty. Elmer Paul Clemente, Deputy Ombudsman for the Visayas, said his office accepts nominees who may come from any sector of the society. Nominators must justify why such as award is given because citations are customized, he explained.
A team led by environmental lawyer Antonio Oposa evaluates the nominees and makes the determination before an award is given.
“This award is not only from the Office of the Ombudsman and its partners but from all of us ordinary people who do good deeds on ordinary day. This is one way of reinforcing good values in the hope that they continue to do it and others will follow them,” said Oposa.
“One good deed of one good person may create a ripple that may not be even noticed but when one good deed done by many people and all of the people, it will be a raging water of change” he said.
Oceana Philippines nominated individual leaders and agencies who have significantly contributed to the protection of Tanon Strait to the Office of the Ombudsman.
One citation read “for your faithfulness to your calling as a paralegal. You dedicated two decades of your life selflessly educating fisherfolks about the law denying yourself of more lucrative income. You defended the defenders from countersuits with courage and fervor. You remained when others have left and continued so others can follow. On behalf of a grateful nation we present this award”. This award was given to Jocelyn Caceres of the Environmental Legal Assistance Center.
Gloria Estenzo-Ramos, Vice President of Oceana Philippines said credit should be given to whom it is due.
“While we do not hesitate to make government offices take the essential steps to perform their mandate, we are on the other hand generous in making public our commendations for those who do”, she said.
“Our government has so many silent workers. They remain faithful to their calling as public servants often in the shadows, making things happen” said Ramos.
Head of Cebu provincial government’s environmental enforcement team was cited for her “determination, bravery and personal initiative that made it easy for your coastal law enforcers to succeed and difficult for politicians to intervene”.
Former District Commander of Coast Guard Central Visayas Commodore Lyndon Latorre was cited for keeping “an open-door policy for civil society groups and other government organizations to enter freely” and for making his office the hub of information exchange among environmental groups”.
Lawyers Benjamin Cabrido and Liza Eisma-Osorio were recognized for their revolutionary approaches to environmental lawyering. Cabrido served as counsel for the resident dolphins and whales of Tanon Strait, with Osorio as one of two guardians who sued a Japanese oil drilling company in the Supreme Court and won.
“This is my belated attorney’s fee”, remarked Atty. Cabrido who is the President of the Phil. Earth Justice Center.
Others who were commended included Isabelo Montejo, former Undersecretary of the DENR, Andres Bojos, former Regional Director of BFAR7, Emma Melana, former Director of DENR- Region 7, PCI Florendo Fajardo, Chief of Police of Bantayan, Mundita Lim, former Director of the BMB, Prospero Am Lendio former Protected Areas Superintendent of Tanon Strait and Commodore Loumer Bernabe of the Philippine Navy, among others.
“There will be more of these recognitions.. We will keep a watchful eye of these individuals and institutions. We encourage others to do the same. Let us reinforce good environmental practices by commendations like this, said Ramos.
This year’s Pasalamat sa Katauhan was held in Cebu last November 16 coinciding with the yearend thanksgiving of Oceana Philippines for its work in Tanon Strait Protected Seascape. Apart from the Deputy Ombudsman for the Visayas, Durwoon Zaelke of the Institute for Governance and Sustainable Development based in Washington D.C., Andrew David Raine of UN-E based in Kenya, retired Supreme Court Chief Justice Hilario Davide Sr and the governors of the provinces of Cebu, Ilo-ilo and Negros Occidental, Tony Oposa, Jr. and Gloria Estenzo Ramos of Oceana signed the award.