CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MindaNews/20 June) –The head of a foreign volunteer medical mission today said their group may pull out due to an extortion attempt demanding an amount of P5 million.
Dietmar Schug, country director of the Committee of German Doctors told reporters today they have received an extortion letter purportedly coming from the communist New People’s Army threatening to harm him and their volunteer doctors if they did not give in to the demand.
Schug said the threat may force them to close their hospitals, a move that puts thousands of poor patients at risk of losing the free medical services.
The Committee of German Doctors, which operates a hospital at the Jesuit-run Xavier University in this city and three other charity health institutions in Valencia City and Buda in Quezon, Bukidnon, has been in the country the past 25 years.
Authorities quickly came to the aid of the group, with City Mayor Vicente Emano assuring Schug and his team of volunteer doctors of their security in the city.
Emano said his investigation showed that the extortion letter may not have come from the communist rebels but from a criminal syndicate.
“It is unthinkable that this is happening. We have been doing charity work here for 25 years and we certainly do not deserve this treatment,” Schug told reporters today, adding they will start pulling out their personnel by Thursday or Friday if they feel their security is in peril.
Emano said that as soon as he heard of the extortion try last week, he arranged a meeting with Schug and assured him that they are secure here in the city. He, however, admitted that he is not sure if the volunteer German health professionals were convinced.
Meanwhile, an official of the 4th Infantry Division said that it is not farfetched for the NPAs to be behind the extortion.
“They have shown the capability to extort from foreign companies, and although this case is still under investigation, it is possible they are behind the senseless extortion on the German Doctors,” said Maj. Eugenio Julio Osias IV, spokesperson of the 4th ID.
A source in the underground movement who asked not to be named for lack of authority to comment on the matter told MindaNews that it is against the policy of the NPA to target groups doing humanitarian work.
He, however, said that the rebel leadership should immediately issue a statement as the extortion attempt is not only harmful to the German Doctors and their poor patients, but could also put the 42-year old communist insurgency in bad light.
Aside from giving free medical services to indigent patients, the group also holds seminars on health and nutrition in remote rural communities. (BenCyrus G. Ellorin/MindaNews)