Northern Samar province remains a favorite “milking cow” of the communist New People’s Army (NPA), which allegedly rakes in hundreds of millions of pesos through extortion, the Philippine Army disclosed yesterday.
Brig. Gen. Ramil Bitong, deputy commander of the Army’s 8th Infantry Division, said the NPA is targeting private contractors, quarry operations and even internal revenue allotments (IRA) of poor and remote barangays.
Bitong cited the long stay of Communist Party of the Philippines Central Committee chairman Benito Tiamzon and his wife Wilma Tiamzon, CPP secretary general, in the province as clear indication of the NPA’s huge collection there.
“They (Tiamzon couple) started in Paranas until their first child was born, Then, after four years they went to Cavite and came back to live in Las Navas for seven years. Why? What is in Samar? That is a question that we can only surmise, but we can all understand. Samar is not poor,” Bitong said.
He said the NPA collects millions of pesos from contractors of infrastructure projects; a percentage of the IRA of barangays under its influence; fees from sand and gravel operations, as well as in land grabbing, which the rebel group calls “agrarian revolution.”
“In Northern Samar, for example, that line from Palapag to Lapinig — that is 45.7 kilometers, and based on our computation, they (NPA) earned P160 million (from there),” Bitong told the media in a recent conference referring to a foreign-funded road project.
According to Bitong, the NPA in Northern Samar is collecting huge amounts of money from the private contractors of government infrastructure projects.
“Normally they would be asked 10 percent and the contractor would bargain and negotiate until it goes down to three percent, and would agree and settle for one percent,” Bitong said.
“But if you compute the billions of pesos of infrastructure projects in Leyte and Samar, this would amount to millions of pesos. So, that is the reason why they are here. We are actually very generous in giving them fuel for their revolution,” he added.
Another source of fund for the insurgents, Bitong said, is its “agrarian revolution.”
He said landowners are “threatened or punished” if they will not give up their lands and allocate them to NPA supporters.
He said under this scheme, the occupants of the land directly pay taxes to the NPA while the original owners stop paying taxes to the government.
“Our estimates in Northern Samar, we even lower it from 3,000 to 1,200 hectares, and the NPA collection amounts to millions also,” Bitong said.
“I have a written revelation from a mayor that the IRA from the barangays, from 10 to 20 percent, goes to the NPA. Those are in the influenced barangays, and later on you will realize that it will amount to hundreds of millions also. This is happening in remote barangays where governance is nil. So, that is a challenge,” he said.
During elections, Bitong said communist rebels also collect millions of pesos from politicians under the “permit to campaign” scheme.
He said when the military captured Ruth Figueroa on 11 July last year, they were able to get a list of names of politicians and the amounts they gave to the rebels.
Figueroa, a barangay captain in Catarman town, is the chairman of Bayan Muna in Northern Samar.
“It is a genuine document captured from the NPA coming from their very own finance chair. There were other captured documents that will validate many of this information,” Bitong said.
However, he stressed that the people of Northern Samar are now tired of the NPA terrorizing their communities.
“If we break the natural resources of NPA, it will die a natural death. No organization will exist without funds. And therefore, our effort and the efforts of other government agencies is to stop this NPA finances,” Bitong said.
“This is the reason why 90 percent of the municipalities and villages in Northern Samar have declared the NPA as persona non grata in their respective communities. They are already tired of NPA deception and extortion activities targeting big businessmen, rich farm owners and ordinary folks, “ he explained.