DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/09 February) — If what the military claimed is true, the food budget of one guerrilla unit of the New People’s Army (NPA) per year is more than the combined allocations for three offices of the Davao City government.
The NPA spends about P70 million “to feed their one guerrilla unit,” said Capt. Ryan Batchar, spokesperson of the 10th Infantry Division.
“An estimated P647 million per year is extorted from the construction companies, mining and agri-business firms,” he added.
If the figures are correct, the money allotted for one guerrilla unit would surpass the 2017 annual budget of the Civil Registrar’s Office (P25 million), City Budget Office (P15 million) and City Cooperative Office (P15 million).
Each NPA unit is believed to have between 30 and 50 fighters.
The NPA is most active in its “extortion” activities in Compostela Valley, Davao Oriental, Sarangani, Davao Occidental, North Cotabato and South Cotabato, Batchar said.
He added that during lulls in military offensives, such as during ceasefires, the NPA would ramp up their “extortion activities” because the ground forces are consolidating and they need “larger logistical needs to feed their men that support their armed movement.”
Last year, the 10thID recorded 25 burning incidents with a total damage of P71.2 million. Fourteen of the 25 incidents occurred during the unilateral ceasefire declared by the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) in August of 2016.
“Before, they form four to five people and go to the communities to demand for food,” Batchar said. “So we were able to derive based on intelligence reports how large is the amount they need for a single guerrilla unit to feed and provide support to its members.”
He said they also interviewed rebel returnees as well as read documents recovered in clash sites.
He added that the figure is just an estimate, but it gives an idea on how extensive the extortion activities of the rebels is.
“Right to collect”
Communist Party of the Philippines founding chair Jose Ma. Sison had insisted in previous interviews that collecting “revolutionary taxes” is the right of the armed group in its territories, saying two governments exist in the Philippines.
He said the money they collect will go to “administration costs”, as well as their programs on land reform, education, health and defense.
Speaking in yesterday’s AFP-PNP press conference at the Davao City Police Office, 10th ID commander Maj. Gen. Rafael Valencia said they are now intensifying their efforts to cripple the NPA’s capacity to extort and harass civilians and businesses.
“They are forcing the people to join their cause,” he said, adding the military can now launch offensives after President Duterte lifted the ceasefire and canceled the peace talks.
“This only proved that contrary to their name, they are not a people’s army. Actually I call them nuisance propaganda army,” he added.
Chief Supt. Manuel Gaerlan, director of Police Regional Office XI, said the NPA took advantage of the ceasefire to bolster its strength.
“The number of extortion increased, especially on business establishments or those whom they asked for rice and food,” he said, adding that they received numerous reports from the community complaining of NPA harassment.
In a statement last week, the CPP-NPA hurled a similar accusation. It said the military and police continued staging offensives against them in the guise of anti-crime operations and development programs.
In Manay, Davao Oirental, 2,500 residents in five barangays left their homes reportedly because of harassment by communist guerrillas.
In addition, the regional police office investigated the killing of two civilians in Manay.
“I wrote to the Regional director of Commission on Human Rights and we are requesting them to join the investigation,” Gaerlan said. “It is a violation already of human rights and International humanitarian Law.”
The NPA, meanwhile, accused the military of “hamleting” which is why the families left.
Hamleting, which the Americans used in Vietnam, is the practice of forcing civilians to live in one place where their movements can be easily monitored by the military to prevent them from giving support to rebel forces. (MindaNews)