DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 02 April) – City Mayor Sara Duterte condemned the burning of 10 heavy equipment by suspected New People’s Army (NPA) guerrillas over the weekend in Calinan, Buhangin, and Paquibato Districts that stalled government road projects.
In a statement Monday, Duterte said the attacks aimed to keep people living in poverty in order to take advantage of them as a “capital in their propaganda against the government and to justify their presence in the communities where their influence and significance are waning.”
She said those actions were downright cowardly and showed that the NPA deserves collective rejection and condemnation.
“The NPA’s revolution is one designed to undermine our democracy and development through its brand of egregious violence and extremism,” she said.
The attacks stalled the constructions of road projects, jointly undertaken by the city and national governments which could end “condition of chronic poverty” by improving delivery of health, education, agricultural development and livelihood services to end “the condition of chronic poverty in the said areas,” the mayor said.
“The said projects could change the lives of the people for the better,” she added.
She said NPA’s recent attacks stemmed from the refusal of the construction companies to give in to their extortion demands and that the military and the police have already been tasked to conduct appropriate actions.
On March 31, a group of armed men carried out simultaneous burning of four dump trucks and three backhoes in Barangay Callawa in Buhangin and another backhoe and bulldozer in Barangay Fatima in Paquibato, and one backhoe in Calinan on April 1 in Calinan.
A police report issued on Sunday, citing Nathaniel C. Garrucha, project engineer of Ulticon Builders Incorporated (UBI), said the backhoe in Calinan was just rented from LTS Company. He added extortion was the possible motive for the burning.
The NPA, which usually acknowledges the attacks it carries out, has yet to issue a statement.
Peace process ‘dampened’
In a separate statement, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza condemned the incidents, saying these dampened whatever gains the government (GRP) and leadership of Communist Party of the Philippines-NPA-National Democratic Front of the Philippines “have been quietly getting lately” to achieve just peace through negotiations.
Dureza maintained only an enabling environment will lead to the resumption of peace talks.
“The fact that the three consecutive attacks happened during the observance of Holy Week all the more angers us,” he added.
Police Regional Office director Manuel Gaerlan said the incidents violated the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL) signed by the NDFP and government in 1998.
“Wala nang halaga sa kanila ang pinirmahan nilang CARHRIHL kung saan nakasaad na hindi dapat lusubin ang mga civilian targets lalong lalo na ang mga gumagawa ng mga proyekto na para sa kapakanan ng mga mamamayan (They no longer honor the CARHRIHL they signed which provides that they should not attack civilian targets, especially those who are doing projects for the people’s welfare),” he said.
Gaerlan said they received information that the communist guerillas had planned to launch attacks against military and police targets ahead of the NPA’s 49th anniversary on March 29 but they were unsuccessful.
“Hence, they attacked the construction companies,” he said. Ayaw nila ng (They do not like) ‘build, build, build.’ They want ‘burn, burn, burn’ sa pangongotong sa mga (in extorting from) contractors,” he said.
The GRP and NDFP were supposed to discuss agreements on socioeconomic and political reforms before the scheduled fifth round of peace talks on November 25 to 27 last year.
But it was aborted when President Rodrigo R. Duterte issued Presidential Proclamation 360 on November 23 “for lack of sincerity” following the NPA ambush of a police patrol car in Bukidnon on November 9 and killed two persons including four-month old Walysha Manchorao.
The President subsequently issued Proclamation 374 designating the CPP and the NPA as terrorist organizations.
Before the cancellation, the two parties had already agreed on three common drafts on general amnesty and release of all political prisoners in compliance with CARHRIHL, coordinated unilateral ceasefires, and part I Agrarian Reform and Rural Development and part II National Industrialization and Economic Development.
On April 29 last year, the NPA attacked the Lorenzo-owned Lapanday Foods Corp., Macondray Plastic Plant in Bunawan and farm in Calinan. (Antonio L. Colina IV/MindaNews)