Image: PRO MIMAROPA
by Liam Campbell
Forest ranger Bienvinido “Toto” Veguilla, Jr. was murdered last week while attempting to stop illegal loggers from ransacking a section of forest in the Philippines. Veguilla was on a routine patrol in the Sitio Kinawagan, Barangay Pasadeña region when he and fellow rangers discovered a group of illegal loggers using a chainsaw and other equipment to destroy the ecosystem for profit. After confiscating their equipment Veguilla and his team departed for their station, but were followed by the illegal loggers and eventually attacked. Unfortunately, Veguilla was unable to escape and was hacked to death by approximately six men.
Veguilla’s murder is a great loss to conservation efforts in the Philippines; he was known as one of the most diligent, hardworking, and courageous members of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR). He is not the first ranger to be murdered — in 2017, captain Ruben Arzaga was also murdered by illegal loggers in retaliation for his conservation efforts.
These brave individuals and their colleagues risk their lives on a daily basis to protect Earth’s dwindling ecosystems against destruction, often facing death threats and severe retaliation. Sometimes it is easy for environmental activists in priveleged countries to lose sight of the brutal realities facing their comrades in other parts of the world. Next time you hear someone moralizing about the virtues or necessity of pacifism, remember that those notions are an extreme luxury and that the individuals who preach those sermons are generally far removed from risking life or limb.