Army says NPA extorting from teachers in Bukidnon’s remote villages

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MindaNews/07 March) – The Army is accusing the communist New People’s Army (NPA) of extorting from public school teachers assigned in far-flung barangays of Bukidnon province.

In a statement, Maj. Eugenio Julio Osias IV said they have validated reports that teachers assigned in remote barangays of Malaybalay City and San Fernando and Impasug-ong towns have been required to give to the rebels at least P300 per month.

“The desperation of the NPA to survive has now affected even the teachers. Reports and revelations confirmed that the New People’s Army is exacting revolutionary taxes against teachers in Bukidnon,” Osias said.

Schoolteachers who are subjected to “extortion” are assigned in barangays Little Baguio, Namnam and Matupe in San Fernando; barangays Hagpa and Kalabugao in Impasug-ong; and in the Upper Pulangi area of Malaybalay City.

Local government officials were reportedly worried that this practice may discourage the teachers from serving in areas where they are most needed.

Major General Victor A. Felix, Commander of the 4th ID denounced the alleged extortion.

“The NPAs should be more compassionate to small people in their criminal activities since they are saying they are pro-poor. These are actions of common criminals, they are opportunist to prey on the helpless civilians in order for them to survive and have an easier way to make money for their personal interest,” Felix said.

Communist rebels have recently made their presence felt in the province.

On Sunday, suspected rebels killed five persons in two separate but related incidents in Barangay Mapayag, Malaybalay.

The rebels reportedly killed former barangay chair Antonio Pechora. At noon of the same day, three members of the Malaybalay City Police Station and a civilian aide who went to the area to investigate the incident died in an ambush staged by the rebels.

Mapayag is located in the foothills of Mt. Kitanglad and shares boundary with Barangay Capitan Juan of Lantapan town.

Peace talks between the Government of the Philippines and the National Democratic Front (NDF) resumed last month in Oslo, Norway.

The NDF is the umbrella organization of all communist-led rebel groups in the Philippines including the NPA, armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines.

The CPP-NPA has been waging an armed struggle since 1968 and has entered into on-and-off peace negotiations with the Philippine government since the time of President Corazon C. Aquino.

Largely acknowledged as a homegrown insurgency, the CPP-NPA sustains itself by collecting “revolutionary taxes” from logging and mining firms and other businesses. (BenCyrus G. Ellorin/MindaNews)