Q and A with Jorge Madlos: “We can stop them only to a certain degree”

[Last of three parts]

SAN AGUSTIN, Surigao del Sur (MindaNews/08 January) – NDF-Mindanao spokesperson discusses the NPA strength, the Aquino administration,
mining and revolutionary taxation in this last part of the series.

Q:    You’ve overtaken Bicol in terms of  armed strength. ComVal, Caraga has become host to the largest armed strength of the NPA.  The mining and banana firms are in these areas.

A:    It is also the least developed area so the contradiction is worse in terms of poverty

Q:    After Comval, what’s the next biggest?

A:        Southern (Southeastern) Mindanao, the biggest is ComVal,  in terms of areas and forces. The rest around the same.

Q:        You’ve lived in this area. You’re from Surigao. Logging has been here for so long, mining also but the communities remain poor.

A:    In the communities we have consolidated, they are self-sustaining. They also have export crops… they have their own health assistance. If
the communities are not consolidated, social and economic reforms are difficult.

Q:    Isn’t the movement’s strength suffering with the coming in of the Aquino administration Given that the Arroyo administration was very repressive, now you have a new administration.

A:    The last six months will be a measure. In the last six months, instead of testing the democratic space, it has even constricted.

Q:    There’s supposed to be a new breed of soldiers who refer to themselves as peace builders

A:    Yes, according to them, they will focus on human rights. peace and development

Q:    These soldiers say we will never win the insurgency by military means and quite a number of them actually sound sincere and are sincere

A:    I would rather base their sincerity in the last six months. They have instead intimidated the people in the countryside. I do not know
if this will change come January because  Oplan Bayanihan is still an extension of OBL. It is still very clear that they are the same AFP
intimidating people, violating human rights. There are people mauled by soldiers, there are still people getting killed. If it is true that
there is a new breed, judging from their experiment, they’re experimenting in Surigao del Norte. Their community organizing through
peace and development, they invade our areas, they position one platoon per barrio. It all turned out that they invite and intimidate
farmers they suspect to be underground leaders, to talk about their involvement so some farmers are mauled. That is the measure of  Oplan
Bayanihan because that is their experiment in Surigao. Basically there is no change. OBL remains although they said we need peace and  development but they violate human rights.

Q:        You’ve lived in this area. You’re from Surigao. Logging has been here for so long, mining also but the communities remain poor.

A:    In the communities we have consolidated, they are self-sustaining. They also have export crops… they have their own health assistance. If
the communities are not consolidated, social and economic reforms are difficult.

Q:    What about the mining firms in Caraga that reportedly pay P20 million to the NPA.

A:    They have “legal” papers from the government agency. They have the mining quotas,  production quotas. Caraga being the no. 1 mining area and throughout the country, it is but  natural that after the downfall of logging, mining is now the biggest industry in Caraga.

Q:    Because the forests have been cleared, explore what’s underneath?

A:    Actually, our policy is, if we can stop mining totally, we will just allow small-scale mining. If only we have that power to drive
away those multinational mining companies,  we can retain the small scale because they

Q:    Why are you saying “if only”?

A:    are less destructive, employing more people, directly benefiting the people. In the bigger mining firms, the workers are still fully
paid but they are the most destructive and  the only ones who will benefit are only their agreements with the international (partners) so
they’re more detrimental to the people’s interest, to our environment and yet as I said they have the permits from the government, they are
protected by law, this Mining Act which is not beneficial to the country,  they are protected by the military by the bureau of ….. We can stop them only to a certain degree but so far we have not succeeded in totally driving them away because for example, we burn five equipment, they still have more capital. What is five equipment, what is three or four damaged? Some damage may be overnight, they can repair, so I would say that the capacity of the movement is only to delay them up to …. Hasolon lang sila (Harass them) so they better pay taxes

Q:    They do?

A:    Yes, they do. Some of them pay, some (don’t), but most of them pay, 1 to 3 % of  their  proceeds they give to the revolutionary movement.

Q:    1 to 3%

A:    That’s a small amount compared to what they pay government plus their tips to the politicians and the military plus other agencies so
likely what will be taken from them, if you add them all, government official receipts plus politician and other agencies, is not only 1 or 3% , that can even run to up to 40% so if you are paying this much 40% to this person, here comes the NPA demanding 1 or 3%

Q:    How do you compute that?

A:    From their gross we would know how many “goods “ they have sent to other countries so they better pay.

Q:    Majority of them pay, so the estimates are right? From P20-million you’re now asking for P30-million?

A:    Let them guess.

Q:    How do you collect? Hindi naman siguro tseke? (Not through cheques?)

A:    No. It’s  cash.  We tell them we can always delay you.  With the smaller ones among the big ones, they better pay because otherwise
they’ll incur more damage. The bigger ones they see it is practical. After all, we are not demanding for us. NPA does not pocket the
amounts they give and they understand that. While those in the government and politicians who ask they pocket the amount as their personal fund so they would rather pay taxes (to us).

Q:    How do you deal with mining firms that are actually the subject of protests by the people directly affected?  In Caraga, there are various groups opposing these mining projects.

A:    All mining firms, especially the big mining firms, we can say it to them that we encourage people to protest against your mines and if we
find out that they will not heed our policy, then we will impose sanctions against their company

Q:    By exacting money from them?

A:    Yes, we tell them that you better listen how workers have been treated. We inform them of the complaints of the Lumads about their 1% royalty share based on the IPRA (Indigenous Peoples Rights Act).  We fight for the rights of the workers as part of our negotiations. One,
give us tax, pay your tax. Two, you fairly treat your workers. Three, pay what is due to the Lumad and to the communities in the vicinity.

Q:    Even if they destroy the environment?

A:    That’s why we did what we did to the San Roque Mining in Tubay (Agusan del Norte). They did not pay the Lumad the 1%  (royalty share) so we attacked them (The NPA on December 22, 2008 seized 21 firearms in two consecutive raids. The NPA engaged  the Tubay police in a gunfight but there were no casualties on bothsides. Simultaneously, the NPA also burned six multi-million worth of heavy equipment of the San Roque Metals Incorporated). We tried to talk to Taganito Mines to give their share to the Lumads.

Q:    What about calls by Senator Honasan et al for mining firms to arm themselves?

A:    Well, we can’t do anything if they fight the NPA. If they say they will no longer continue their business because they’re bankrupt, they
can go out, okay with us. So long as they are in business… even if the company doesn’t recognize us a real government, they have to be
practical. We are there. We don’t need to say that we are government. We don’t need to insist we are government. They will feel we are government. And they have a choice. We don’t say that because we’re government, you recognize us. Just give what is due to us as a
government. That is our inherent right to tax the businessmen in our area and even if you don’t call us a government, as a revolutionary
movement that is our inherent right.

Q:    You’re 62. Everybody dies. How do you want to be remembered?

A:     When you’re happy with one thing, that means you are convinced of what you are doing. Happiness is relative. When you are at peace with your conscience, even if you’re inside jail, you’re happy. How much more when you’re outside?  My integration with the people, with their aspirations, jibe, forming a formidable cause respected by businessmen, imperialists, acknowledged by government.  I am happy
because my ideas in practice are holding and when I die, I am sure I cannot say victory beyond my life or  within my life. Anyway, I know
victory will come. So happiness is one thing, that you know the outcome of what you’re doing because you cannot unfurl anymore the
flag of revolution in our country. It takes land reform, it takes national industrialization to disband the revolutionary movement and
Noynoy Aquino cannot do that. It would take genuine land reform and genuine industrialization in our country to unfurl the flag of
revolution and Noynoy cannot just do that. As long as there is no real land reform, there is no real democracy, padayon ang katawhan (the