‘Communists not behind extort try on Committee of German Doctors’

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MindaNews/21 June) — A military official has insisted the Communist Party of the Philippines could be behind the P5-million extortion attempt on the Committee of German Doctors, but a police official in the region and the head of the medical group himself believe the real culprits are not rebels.

The Committee of German Doctors received a letter purportedly coming from the CPP which threatened harm against the family of Dietmar Schug, the country director of the group that has served poor patients in this city and Bukidnon since 1985 (not 1986 as earlier reported). The extortionists also threatened to burn one of the group’s hospitals in Bukidnon if their demand was not met.

“I totally believe this letter does not come from the genuine left. It would be counter intuitive to a revolutionary movement to extort from an organization servicing the poor masses. If they are a real liberation movement then they should support what we are doing with the masses,” Schug said.

“Sometimes, we even get to treat their comrades,” he added.

Schug said their office secretary received a hand-delivered letter on June 8. The letter, dated May 16 and addressed to Schug, was signed Aimee Malingkawas and contained the heading “Communist Party of the Philippines-MLM, Partido Komunista ng Pilipinas.”

Schug clarified their hospitals do not earn profits.

In the letter, the alleged rebels accused the charitable medical organization of “masquerading in helping and aiding the masses to accumulate more funds from abroad,” and for “giving false hopes to the masses.”

“A revolutionary tax of 5 million pesos should be given within two weeks from receipt of this letter,” the letter demanded.

It also claimed to know the residential address of Schug and the names of his wife and two children.

“Never attempt to bring this matter to the authorities otherwise it will jeopardize the safety of your organization and family (names of Schug’s wife and two children),” the letter stated.

“We will (be) watching and monitoring your every move and we will not hesitate to take necessary action if ever you failed our demand,” it continued.

In an interview today, Schug said he received several calls three days after he received the extortion letter. He said he heard two different male voices.

“No, we will not pay. If we pay, we will be closed for a whole month,” he said when asked if their organization was contemplating of giving in to the demand.

Supt. Noel Armilla of the Philippine National Police Regional Investigation and Intelligence Division concurred with Schug that the CPP was not behind the extortion.

“This is the handiwork of people who don’t want to be identified. They terrorize but do not have the capability,” he said, adding they have monitored no security threat in the region.

“Usually, the CPP does not send letters to demand revolutionary taxes but sends representatives in person to explain and collect the revolutionary taxes. From our experience, letter sending is not a signature move of the NPA (New People’s Army),” Armilla said.

The NPA is the armed wing of the CPP whose political arm, the National Democratic Front, is currently holding peace talks with the government.

In a phone interview, Maj. Eugenio Julio Osias IV, spokesperson of the 4th ID said that it would be premature to discount the CPP as one of the suspects in the extortion pending the outcome of an investigation.

“It is still premature to say that the CPP did not do this since there is still no official denial from the party leadership,” he said.

“If the supposed letter did have the official insignia or logo of the CPP it still could come from them. Minsan nga hand-written lang ang letters asking revolutionary tax,” said Osias.

But in a text message today, a longtime member of the CPP based in the city said the letter is the handiwork of the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ propaganda machinery.

“Alam mo, black propaganda ng AFP ‘yan. The same ageing, has-been and Jurassic black propaganda offensive of AFP. A revolutionary movement does not resort to burning of hospitals and schools, that’s against their principles and policy on the conduct of war. It is AFP black propaganda, nothing more, nothing less,” the text message reads.

Schug meanwhile said they might be force to stop giving services to out-patients if their security continues to be threatened, a move that could deprive thousands of indigents who seek medical assistance from his group.

He said they are servicing at least 650 out-patients everyday in their three hospitals. The Committee of German Doctors operates hospitals not only here but also in Valencia City and Buda in Bukidnon.

“We do not treat patients based on their creed, race or political beliefs. The only qualification that we require to receive treatment is that you are poor and could not afford medical attention,” he said.

“Yes, we receive funds but we don’t accumulate it. We receive grants from abroad but we spend it for our operations here,” he added.

Schug said that as a small NGO their operation relies on the willingness of German doctors to do voluntary work.

Armilla, for his part, assured the German Doctors that they are taking the matter seriously and are on top of the situation.

“We have coordinated with the (Cagayan de Oro City) Mayor’s Office and currently conducting profiling the suspect based on the extortion letter. We are back-tracking, investigating and tapped networks in the intelligence community in identifying the suspect,” he said.

“We want the German Doctors to continue operating here. We cannot afford to lose this NGO who caters to poor people in the region. We have also communicated with the provincial director of Misamis Oriental to secure the residences of Schug and his staff of volunteers,” the police official said. (Cong B. Corrales/MindaNews)