KORONADAL CITY (MindaNews/22 March)—The communist New People’s Army (NPA) rebels’attack on a police outpost in T’boli, South Cotabato last Wednesday was intended as a “punitive action” for the presence of multinational companies in the area, a rebel official said Friday.
The attack came a month after the NPA attacked Del Monte Philippines, Inc. in Bukidnon on February 19. In that attack where a security guard was killed, National Democratic Front spokesperson Jorge Madlos said it was a “punitive action” against the MNCs.
“Ka Efren,” spokesperson of the National Democratic Front-Far South Mindanao Region, said members of the NPA Front 73 carried out the offensive.
“That’s a well-carried out plan while the military was busy scouring the mountains for our troops in the boundary of the provinces of South Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat and Sarangani. That police outpost was a vulnerable target,” he said in an interview over Bombo Radyo Koronadal.
Around 20 NPA rebels carried out the daring attack noontime Wednesday aboard an Isuzu Elf truck, leaving a member of the Civilian Volunteer Organization wounded.
The NPA spokesperson admitted that one of the communist rebels who attacked the police outpost was killed in the ensuing firefight that lasted for about 15 minutes.
Immediately after the February 19 attack in Bukidnon, Madlos had warned of more attacks if Del Monte and other agribusiness companies do not heed their call for moratorium of expansion of plantations. “If they agree not to expand their areas, we might reconsider the attacks,” he said.
“Ka Efren” said the attack showed that the NPA still has a presence in South Cotabato, contrary to the claims of the military that they have flushed out the communist rebels from the province.
He said the attack was a warning to multinational firms Dole Philippines, Inc. and Sumifru Philippines Corp, which he accused of monopolizing large tracts of lands in the area.
Dole and Sumifru operate pineapple and banana plantations, respectively, in the upper valley portion of South Cotabato that includes the towns of T’boli, Surallah and Banga.
He also said the attack should serve as warning to local politicians, singling out South Cotabato First District Rep. Daisy Avance Fuentes, who is running again for governor.
“Ka Efren” said Fuentes has economic interests with these multinational companies with her trucking services allegedly contracted to them.
In a separate emailed statement issued Friday afternoon, the NPA spokesperson accused Fuentes of actively and directly participating in the implementation of the “devious and anti-people counter-insurgency program Oplan Bayanihan.”
She facilitated the rapid expansion of Dole Philippines and Sumifru in the towns of Banga, Surralah, T’boli and Lake Sebu 12 years ago, he said.
The NPA spokesperson added that “at the expense of the local populace especially the peasant masses,” Fuentes, then Governor, allegedly in collaboration with the 27th Infantry Battalion and the 1002nd Infantry Brigade, unleashed “Oplan Purple Heart,” which according to him was the local version of Oplan Bantay Laya, the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ counterinsurgency strategy now replaced with Oplan Bayanihan.
“The NPA in South Cotabato vows to continue carrying its tasks of defending the peasant masses and other poor people of the province against the continuing intrusion and landgrabbing of big local and multinational agri-corporations and mining companies and as well as against the onslaught of Oplan Bayanihan,” he warned.
Sought for comments, Fuentes categorically denied that she had business interests with Dole Philippines and Sumifru.
“The NPA is lying, I don’t have even a single truck rented to those companies,” she told MindaNews in a telephone interview.
She wondered why this issue came out just as the local campaign season is drawing near.
Fuentes said the trucking company identified by the NPA official—Jingle Trucking—is owned by a former subordinate who had since resigned from government service.
But she said her husband used to rent a truck to B-MEG, which sells poultry feeds, in nearby General Santos City.
Fuentes, however, did not deny that she had supported the military and the police in the province when she was still the governor because “that’s my duty to help keep the peace and order in my area.”
These institutions are government agencies and I’m also a part of the government, Fuentes said.(Bong S. Sarmiento/MindaNews)