Cult's house desecrate Mt. Banahaw
For the hundreds of religious sects who visit here, Mount Banahaw is a holy place for worship. For the wildlife in the forest of Banahaw, it is a rich habitat. For some concerned citizens, the putting up of a house structure on its slopes is a desecration of the place.
“If I would have my way, even if it cost millions to construct the building put up by the Earth Savers Movement and Mistica in Mount Banahaw, I would demolish it because that site is the source of potable water for the residents of Dolores”, said an anonymous government official residing in Dolores, a town nestled at the foot of the mountain.
The structure was put up by Earth Savers Movement - Dolores Chapter, whose members also belong to Banahaw cult Suprema de la Iglesia de la Ciudad Mistica de Dios (Mistica).
The structure is built of concrete, with an area of 28 sq. m., has metal windows and a kitchen. It is located at the entrance of Kuweba ng Diyos Ama (Cave of God the Father), a 6-hour hike from Dolores.
The construction, which began on April 13, 1998, was met with opposition from environmentalist organization Luntiang Alyansa ng Bundok Banahaw (Green Alliance of Mount Banahaw or LABB). For two years, LABB has complained to various government agencies that the structure was illegally constructed, citing Mt. Banahaw’s status as a protected area.
Mt. Banahaw, situated between the provinces of Laguna and Quezon, was declared a National Park of Quezon province on July 16, 1987 by virtue of Executive Order 224 under Republic Act 7586. This law is better-known as National Integrated Protected Areas System Act of 1992 (NIPAS Act).
The building was constructed without permission from the Barangay officials of Kinabuhayan, Dolores, Quezon. This is also against a resolution of the Protected Area Management Board (PAMB) which declared a moratorium on putting up structures and destroying plants and animals within Mt. Banahaw. The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), National Power Corporation (NPC), Local Government Units (LGU) and non-government Organizations are represented in the PAMB.
Hundreds of religious sects such as Mistica flock yearly to Mt. Banahaw. Most of them visit the mountain on Holy Week to re-strengthen their faith.
The Earth Savers Movement, a group led by Congressman Heherson Alvarez of the of Isabela Province’s fourth district, joined Mistica in requesting permission from the PAMB last January 19, 1998 to construct of a small concrete building near the Kuweba ng Diyos Ama. The house should serve as a resting place, a conference house for the community and may be used for cooking and as restroom for the pilgrims of Mount Banahaw during Holy Week.
It may also be used as a guardhouse for fire protection, according to Isabel Suarez, leader of Mistica which referred to by its members as “Suprema”.
This is contrary to a report by Antonio T. Corpuz of NPC submitted to Antonio G. Prinsipe, former Regional Executive Director of DENR IV that the construction of a building violates the PAMB resolution. The report also said that the Earth Savers Movement and Mistica violated the provisions of NIPAS Act. It also suggested on April 20, 1998 that the construction of the building be discontinued.
Jun Lontok, Director of LABB, said that because Mistica’s defiance of orders from the DENR, NPC at PAMB to discontinue the construction, “this may encourage other religious sects in Banahaw to put up their own building in the protected area”.
Suarez denied the accusation that Mistica and Earth Savers Movement encourage others, saying that they were not alone in putting up structures in the area. “In fact, there were others who came before us”, she said.
Suarez and Magtanggol Barrion, Protected Area Superintendent (PASu) of Mt. Banahaw and also a member of Mistica, said that the putting up of a rest house in Kuweba ng Diyos Ama was a long time prophesy to the members of Mistica. They requested permission from the various concerned government agencies, but they have a specific date on starting the project according to their belief.
We did not accept the moratorium because the PAMB was not in a quorum and it was only a consultation”, said Barrion. “The moratorium was only declared at the time when the construction has already begun”, he added.
Emily Tuico, Forester of the Provincial Environment and Natural Resources of DENR-Quezon and a member of the PAMB secretariat, said that Banahaw is a protected forest which means that any kind of building is prohibited in the area.
If there will be a development here, it must only be for the concept of protection. She cited the tree-planting in the area as an example.
She commented that since Banahaw is a protected area, the construction of the building is prohibited. That is why, she said, PAMB, DENR and NPC decided to issue a moratorium to avoid the putting up and the increase of similar structures in Banahaw.
At present, they are still awaiting the result of the report of a task force organized by the DENR Head Office regarding the case. The investigation started on March this year.
Domingo Egon Cayosa, President of NGOs for Integrated Protected Areas (NIPA), stated that the will discuss this issue in the meeting of the NIPA Board of Directors. He will also talk with Earth Savers Movement regarding their involvement with the said illegal building in Banahaw. Earth Savers Movement is a member organization of NIPA.
“Even before I was born, that place was prophesied to be the site of the said house,” said Barrion, who as PASu of the Banahaw - San Cristobal Forest Park, is supposed to implement the moratorium on construction of buildings in the mountain.
“How can the law be implemented if the one who is supposed to implement it is a member of Mistica?”, a resident of Barangay Kinabuhayan, who requested anonymity, said.
Suarez lashed back at LABB by saying that the group were just envious of them. She added that they were envied for visits by high-ranking government officials offering them assistance such as the construction of the road going to Ciudad Mistica.
Because of the large membership of Mistica, they were also being accused of being untouchable by politicians. BK witnessed the pictures of top politicians like Vice President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, senators, members of the cabinet, the late president Diosdado Macapagal and the picture of Governor Wilfredo Enverga of Quezon framed and posted on the walls of Isabel Suarez’ office.
Her brother, Maximo Suarez, said that the pictures were given to them by the same politicians who regularly visit their community.
According to the residents near the compound of Mistica, this is allegedly the reason why the group can violate the law, and that Mistica allegedly has a private army which they use to intimidate and kill.
This is denied by Barrion. “We have some members who carry guns but this does not mean it is a private army” he said. He compared this to the Catholics which has many followers carrying guns, but this cannot be called a private army.
On the allegations of murder like what happened to a farmer that was killed by a member of Mistica, Barrion expressed dismay and asked, “if you are Catholic and you killed a person, does it have to be blamed to the whole religion and members of the Catholic Church?”