DAVAO ORIENTAL – The local government and its citizens are now closely working together to address the continuing atrocities and abuses committed by the rebel group, CPP New People’s Army NDF which includes the rampant extortion activities that has been hurting lowly civilians and scores of local businesses here.
For the Philippine Army, they said “We have already submitted the reports of extortion activities in our area of operation and other violent incidents to higher headquarters and submitted them to the Government of the Philippines Peace Panel which will be brought up in the third round of the peace talks with the CPP-NPA-NDF later this month,” said Cpt. Andrew Linao, Civil Military Operations Officer of the Philippine Army’s 701st Brigade.
A group of local traders here have expressed their “deep concern” over the continuing extortion activities of the Communist rebels, forcing them to pay “revolutionary tax” to the rebel group for fear of violent retaliation like the burning of their vehicles, heavy equipment trucks and destruction of properties.
The local traders say that while trade and commerce in the province is now booming, they fear of not being able to maximize its full potentials due to constant harassment by the lawless group.
One local contactor of OPAPP-PAMANA government-funded project in one of the towns has complained that the NPA rebels has sent him an extortion letter, threatening to burn heavy equipment owned by his company if he does not pay ‘mandatory’ taxes to the rebels. The CPP NPA NDF letter says the contractor’s road project is “illegal” as it was “pursued without proper coordination” with the rebel group.
Business groups here said they are worried about their business’s future if the rebels continue to extort money from them, not to mention their workers who are in danger of losing their jobs if these abuses go on.
To these businessmen, the promise of a booming investment that would potentially help spur up development could vanish if the ‘bandits’ continue to force them to pay ‘revolutionary taxes’.
Barangay officials and cooperative leaders are not exempted from extortion atrocities.
If not high powered firearms the communist rebels demand for regular supply of sacks of rice, or else serious sanctions will be meted to them. “They claim to be the people’s champion in the fight against poverty and injustices and yet what they do is the exact opposite as they drive away developments that could have made huge impacts in the lives of the people, particularly in terms of socio-economic development,” said one businessman who refused to be named.
“The rebels do not only extort the rich businessman but even squeeze out money from the struggling poor who can’t even feed their families. They do this under the guise of protecting the poor and their sense of entitlement as the ‘real government’,” said a local trader, saying that what the CPP NPA NDF is doing is an extreme disservice to the masses whom they claimed to protect. “It’s absurd for them to call themselves protector of the poor when they, in fact, oppress the poor,” said another.
The situation led them to question the on-going ceasefire and peace talks, which they say is supposed to protect the interest of the people.
Governor Nelson L. Dayanghirang has vowed to pursue a comprehensive peace and development program for his people, saying that “without peace, there can be no real development.”
“We have already poured so much investment in strengthening our programs on tourism and investment and we cannot allow these threats to put our investments down the drain,” he said, vowing to continue establishing meaningful programs and projects that will benefit the people and improve socio-economic activity here.