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Trees Or Threats?
 
By Elson T. Elizaga
 

In October 2012, British musician Sting cancelled his planned "Back to Bass" concert in the SM Mall of Asia, apparently to support the protest against SM Baguio's alleged cutting of trees inside its property. Sting transferred his concert to the Araneta Coliseum instead.

Many Baguio protesters were elated about this decision, seeing it as victory against SM. But Sting did not issue a public statement. His website doesn't contain a word about SM Baguio or trees. Sting held a concert on December 9, 2012 and left the Philippines without meeting critics of SM Baguio, or giving a word of support for their cause.

So, why did Sting move his concert venue anyway?

Reports indicate two major causes: Karlo Marko Altomonte's online petition, and lawyer Cheryl Daytec's1 letter of complaint to Sting's representative named "Alicia". Their message can be converted into a syllogism:

Sting is pro-environment. SM is anti-environment. Therefore, Sting must not play in SM.

The most powerful evidence Altomonte and Daytec could have shown to Sting were pictures of felled trees in SM Baguio. But they had none. Sting and his organizers could have asked for evidence of tree-cutting, but didn't. They just changed the venue and apologized to fans who had already bought tickets. Why didn't Sting bother to investigate? My guess is he and his promoter, Ovation Productions, simply wanted to avoid trouble. They wanted to keep the event safe, because angry protesters could disrupt the concert.

Altomonte and Daytec's communications suggest that if Sting won't comply with the petition, his concert could face a security threat -- what Daytec called "mass indignation action."

  1. Daytec described a rally of "5,000" people in Baguio on January 20, 2012. She also claimed that similar rallies have been "held all over the Philippines to support us." [Not true. Outside Baguio, three rallies were held, and only in Metro Manila. Protesters, however, described the rallies at SM North Edza and SM Mall of Asia as violently dispersed.2]

  2. Daytec mentioned a "spontaneous rally of thousands that surprised even us who made a public call for mass indignation action." This rally, Daytec wrote, was held on April 10, 2012 in Baguio and participated by "6,000" people. It had no permit, "but the police had no choice but to allow us although they kept close watch".

  3. Altomonte's petition shows a video of the April 10, 2012 rally. Daytec mentioned this video and the petition in her letter to Alicia.

  4. Altomonte and Daytec's attitude towards Sting was hostile. They were not requesting for an action, but demanding for it. Altomonte's video is titled "Sting can't be saving rainforests and enabling SM to rape the environment at the same time!" Daytec told Sting's agents on her Facebook account: "Sting, a voice of the oppressed, cannot sing in the halls of the oppressor!” Note the words "can't" and "cannot".

Confronted with this non-compromising stance, anyone would simply look for an easy way out. If Sting insisted on having a concert in SM Mall of Asia, he would only expose himself to ridicule, at least. The same people who were elated about his decision, the same people who wrote, "I love you, Sting" and "Thank you, Sting" could be his hecklers in print, radio, TV and cyberspace: "STING, WHO GAVE YOU FIELDS OF GOLD? HENRY SY?" Then someone would flaunt a report of Sting's concert before the daughter of the "boil your enemies" dictator of Uzbekistan. [Is there a human rights lawyer in Baguio who gives a hoot about this report?]

SM claimed Sting was misinformed about SM Baguio. Misinformed, yes, but misled, I doubt it. To say that Sting was misled is to suggest the Rainforest Foundation and the British Secret Intelligence Service are blind about Baguio.

Altomonte's petition for Sting

This petition accuses SM of being anti-environment but it doesn't show any photograph or video of alleged tree-cutting inside SM. Instead, it presents a documentation of a protest rally.

Cheryl Daytec's long letter also describes two huge rallies, but doesn't present evidence of cut trees.

What is the message protesters have successfully sent to Sting? That SM Baguio is destructive to the environment or that protesters are willing to hold rallies at Sting's concert?

 
 
 
False statement from a scholar of Hubert H. Humphrey Fellowship
 
By Elson T. Elizaga
 

Is it public service to provide false information? Should a scholar of the Hubert H. Humphrey Fellowship express a statement that can mislead the public?

In her letter to "Alicia", who represented British musician Sting, Cheryl Daytec claimed that SM Baguio "cut down more than 40 trees in the dead of the night". Daytec wrote this statement after introducing herself as a scholar of the Hubert H. Humphrey Fellowship Program in the University of Minnesota "To convince you that I am not a fraud." Excerpt from Daytec's letter as published in Pedestrian Observer GB:

Excerpt of Cheryl Daytec's letter to Alicia

Daytec's claim is not true. I have requested friends in Baguio, including protesters, to give me photos of felled trees inside SM Baguio since April 2012, and so far I have not received any, despite my offer of P1,000. [See my other article on this subject.] SM Baguio only earth-balled and transplanted 40 trees, and none of them are dead. Also, SM Baguio has a massive reforestation project.

Protesters who went to SM Baguio on April 18, 2012 didn't find any cut tree. Even Daytec only saw earthballing. A report by the Philippine News Agency published by bayanihan.org states: "Lawyer Sheryl Daytec Yangot, counsel of the protesters of the transferring of 181 trees in the area confirmed that all they saw were diggings, where 41 trees were 'earth balled' for their transfer to another site."

So, why did Daytec tell Alicia a different story months later? Doesn't her statement contradict the purpose of the Hubert H. Humphrey Fellowship Program? -- "to honor the late Senator and Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey and his life-long commitment to human rights, international cooperation, and public service"?

Daytec also expressed two other false statements in the same letter -- that "rallies have been held all over the Philippines to support us" and "the people of a historical city of almost half a million people are fervently praying that something can be done".

Cheryl Daytec claim of "rally all over the Philippines to support us"

The Philippines has 7,100 islands and only two rallies have been held in Baguio and three in Metro Manila. Well, perhaps more than two in Baguio, but there are no reports of them that I know. Also, Daytec's claimed knowledge about the religious activity of almost half a million people is weird.

FOOTNOTES

1 Cheryl Daytec is also referred to by several websites as Cheryl Daytec Yangot and Cheryl Daytec Yañgot.

2 Protesters allege that two rallies were violently dispersed. The caption of the youtube video "Occupy SM North EDSA marred with violence" partly states: " ... an activist was punched, a photo-documentor was strangled, and the protest's sound system and a mobile phone was severely damaged." But the video does not have evidence of these claims.

The Philippine Daily Inquirer's report of a rally at SM Mall of Asia also contains allegations of violent dispersal. Excerpt: "Solmayor, who was said to be among those dispersed during the rally, said security personnel were pushing everyone regardless of gender and size, adding that women were reportedly touched in their sensitive parts as they were being pushed away." But no pictures prove these claims.

 

Published online Tuesday, October 23, 2012. Revised May 24, 2013. Photo of Sting by David Shankbone, originally displayed in Wikipedia.