Hundreds of mourners turned out to pay their last respects to their bishop at his funeral, on what would have been his 80th birthday, in the southern Philippine diocese of Marbel on Feb. 20. Bishop Emeritus Dinualdo Gutierrez of Marbel, an avid campaigner for the environment and staunch critic of large-scale mining operations, died on Feb. 10 at the age of 79. The prelate was buried at the back of Christ the King Cathedral in St. Anthony of Padua Parish in Koronadal. Father Romeo Buenaobra, vicar-general of Marbel Diocese, described Bishop Gutierrez in his homily during the funeral Mass as "one of a kind." "As a bishop, like Christ, he was a good shepherd. We will sorely miss him, but his memory will remain in our hearts," said the priest. Bishop Gutierrez led Marbel Diocese for 35 years, having been appointed bishop on Nov. 15, 1982. He held the record in this country for a bishop remaining in one diocese, said Father Buenaobra. The late prelate, born in the province of Romblon on Feb. 20, 1939, became a bishop at the young age of 42. Bishop Gutierrez was the first Filipino bishop appointed to Marbel Diocese. The first two prelates were Passionist missionaries Quentin Olwell (1961-69) and Reginald Arliss (1970-81). The diocese has pastoral jurisdiction over the provinces of South Cotabato and Sarangani and parts of Sultan Kudarat, and the cities of General Santos and Koronadal in Mindanao. Bishop Gutierrez stayed on as bishop after the mandatory retirement age of 75 until the appointment last year of Bishop Cerilo Casicas
. The late prelate led Catholics in his diocese in opposing what could have been the largest copper and gold mining project in Southeast Asia by Sagittarius Mines, Inc. The firm’s bid to excavate deposits was scuppered by an open-pit mining ban
, which the bishop strongly supported, in South Cotabato province. He also opposed a coal-mining project
and plans for a coal-fired power plant in several areas of his diocese. Bishop Gutierrez also served as chairman of the social action secretariat of the Catholic bishops’ conference.
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He was also among church leaders who have strongly criticized President Rodrigo Duterte's war against drugs that has claimed the lives of at least 5,000 people according to police figures.