By GERALD LEIGH LAQUINON
THE New People’s Army (NPA) yesterday owned responsibility for Wednesday’s attack on an agricultural firm in Bukidnon on Wednesday, saying it was meant to punish its owners for allegedly exploiting their workers.
In an audio recording sent to various media organizations, NPA spokesman for north central Mindanao Allan Juanito said a guerrilla platoon under the NPA’s Mt. Kitanglad Sub-Regional Command raided and disarmed the guards of Chen and Yap Agri Development Inc. in the village of Licoan, Sumilao town.
“Their armed guards are being used by the exploitative proprietors of these establishments who give very low wages to their workers,” said Juanito.
The NPA raid was staged just days after rebels simulatenously set up roadblocks, and seized three police officers in Impasug-ong in Bukidnon, Talisayan in Misamis Oriental, and Agusan del Norte in the neighboring region of Caraga.
The military earlier accused the NPA of ransacking the firm, carting away guns, and robbing workers.
Juanito said the rebels seized shotguns and a caliber .38 revolver.
Juanito said the owners of the firm that operate a poultry farm in Sumilao were active military personnel. He identified them only as one Chen and Cononando.
“That’s why, after the incident, two 6×6 trucks full of military troops under the 1st Special Forces Battalion and a military tank responded at once,” said Juanito.
Capt. Joe Patrick Martinez, spokesperson of the 4th Infantry Division, maintained that the reason for the attack was because the owners rebuffed the rebels’ extortion demands.
Jenry Emong, one of the workers present during the incident, said they were all terrified when the rebels ransacked the establishment to find money.
She said the rebels, after finding nothing, turned to the workers and seized their personal money amounting to P3,700.
Lt. Col. Peter Edwin Navarro, commander of the 1st Special Forces Battalion, said the incident only showed how desperate the NPA rebels have become, and that they have morphed from being ideologues to bandits.