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Arrest threatens the environment but protects illegal logging and mining

DAVAO CITY (Mabuhay) : A member of the Rural Missionaries of The Philippines, Resita Miles, is now missing, and an internationally known physicist, Kim Gargar, is in prison, after being arrested and charged with illegal possession of firearms, attempted murder, illegal possession of explosives and violation of the election gun ban on the afternoon of October 1.

The whereabouts of Miles is unknown. The Rural Missionaries is an organisation set up by the Association of Major Superiors of the Catholic Church in The Philippines to be in solidarity with the rural poor.

Gargar is being held in the provincial jail. When he was met by a representative of the human rights group, Karapatan, his first request was for writing paper, as he said that his notes were missing from his personal belongings, an indication that someone wanted them destroyed.

Gargar has been working on a reforestation programme aimed at repairing the damage caused by the typhoon. His study is a direct threat to logging and mining interests.

The unanswered question is why such a brilliant a man, so intent on preserving nature would be bothered with guns and explosives or involving himself in a partisan struggle of little consequence to the work he has devoted himself to.

The likely answer to the quandary is that the findings of his research will undoubtedly reveal the full extent of the damage to the environment currently being done by illegal logging and what will be the consequence of proposed mining projects in Compestela Valley.

Gargar has taught physics in four universities in The Philippines, from the University of The Philippines in Quezon City to the Mindanao Polytechnic State University. He has also been accepted to do a doctorate by the Rijksuniversiteit University in the Netherlands.

He has been preparing for his doctorate since 2009 by analysing a mathematical model of the mammalian circadian pacemaker, or the manner in which the natural rhythms of nature; tidal, daily and seasonal; adjust themselves to the constraints of and changes in their environment—information vital to care and management of rainforests.

Powerful interests would be interested in having him discredited and removed from the scene.

Gargar said that he and Miles were caught in the crossfire during a scrap between government forces and members of the New People’s Army (NPA) in Cateel, Davao Oriental, at around 2.00am.

They became separated when they tried to flee.

Gargar was found around 2.30pm with a wound to his head, which later required five stitches, and a badly injured foot.

He told MindaNews that he had fallen into a crevice when he was running away from the gunfire in the dark of the night, injuring his head and foot badly.

He also claims that contrary to a press release from the Eastern Mindanao Command that he was awake when he was found near a small waterfall some 12 hours later by the military with a K-9 dog.

The military is claiming that he was found unconscious clutching a rifle just 200 metres from the site of the clash between the military and the NPA.

“I ran out of fear and in my haste I fell out of fear,” Gargar told MindaNews.

“I fell, that’s why I got these,” he said, pointing to his wounded head and foot.

He said that in the dark he fell into a crevice and was unable to get out. He dried his clothes and ate some of the food that he had brought with him for a research trip he was making on reestablishing rainforests in areas that had been destroyed by Typhoon Pablo in December 2012.

He explained that when the soldiers came he shouted in Visayan, “I have no firearm,” but repeated it in Tagalog when he heard the men talking that language.

A colonel, Benjamin Madrigal, from the 701st Infantry Brigade, told MindaNews that Gargar had been intercepted near the site of the clash, immediately given first aid and then turned over to the police.

The Eastern Mindanao Command says that Gargar was captured by troops pursuing the rebels after a firefight in Aliwagwag.

It adds that he was carrying an assortment of wires, impoverished explosive devices, assorted ammunition, one M-16 rifle, but no ammunition, eight pieces of blasting cap, personal belongings, a medical kit, a handheld radio and a transistor radio.

Gargar told MindaNews that when the soldiers first came he did not say much as he did not want to antagonise them. “They simply heard what they wanted to hear,” he explained.

He had intended to continue his research in the area until December.

 

He was also involved in April this year in a 69-member fact-finding team that documented the March 4 murder of a village councillor from Baganga Village.