MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews / 22 June) – Suspected New People’s Army (NPA) rebels burned heavy equipment of two unnamed quarry operators in Barangay Sinabuagan, Valencia City last Friday night, 19 June, an Army official said.
In an interview Monday on dxDB-Malaybalay, Col Ferdinand Brandon, commanding officer of the 403rd Infantry Brigade, said the incident came after the quarry operators ignored an “extortion letter” from the NPA unit operating in Cabanglasan and San Fernando towns in Bukidnon.
Brandon challenged the rebel group to explain the incident, calling it a violation of the International Humanitarian Law.
“Sagutin nila kung bakit sila nanununog. Ito ba ay pagtulong sa masa?” (They should explain why they resort to burning. Will this help the masses), he added.
He said the incident resulted in loss of jobs.
“Is this according to the agreement that they signed?” Brandon, speaking in Filipino, said.
He was referring to the Comprehensive Agreement on Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law signed between the Philippine government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines.
The agreement aims to mitigate the effects of the armed conflict on civilians while the two parties proceed with peace talks, which have been stalled several times.
“Para na rin silang virus, dagdag sa kahirapan,” (They’re just like the virus, adding to the hardships) Brandon said, alluding to the coronavirus pandemic.
The NPA is known to demand “revolutionary tax” from construction, mining and logging firms and other private businesses. Several firms that refused to pay became targets of attack.
The government has dismissed such practice, which has reportedly netted millions of pesos annually for the rebel group, as mere extortion.