By Gerald Leigh Laquinon
and LITO RULONA
THE New People’s Army (NPA) raided a warehouse and seized nearly 1,400 sacks of rice in Valencia City, Bukidnon on Monday. Authorities however recovered some of it during pursuit operations.
Rebels said the rice would be given to farmers hurting because of the dry spell.
Bukidnon police spokesperson Senior Insp. Danielo Bellezas said some 60 rebels barged into the CH Bernal Milling owned by Valencia Councilor Helen Bernal.
Bellezas however said the rebels carted away 1,270 sacks of rice worth some P2.4 million, and not 1,400 as claimed by the NPA.
Officers from the Valencia City Police Office and the Army’s 403rd Infantry Battalion however recovered some 440 sacks during pursuit operations.
Valencia police director Supt. Benbo Jumalon said some 300 sacks of rice were found in the house of Daisery Lastimoso, and 140 others in the residence of Florencio Flora.
The NPA has alleged that it staged the raid because of rice hoarding.
Ariel “Inda” Magbanwag, spokesperson of the NPA in south central Bukidnon, said the rebels launched the “operation rice-seizure” against Bernal’s establishment in Purok 11, Batangan, Valencia at around 6 pm on Monday
“Within 15 minutes, the NPA confiscated 1,384 sacks of rice and loaded them into four trucks,” said Magbanwag.
He said rebels also seized flat screen CCTV monitors, an Automatic Voltage Regulator and sander tools.
Police said rebels also seized the personal belongings of workers before they fled with the rice loaded into four cargo trucks.
Bellezas quoted witnesses as saying that rebel forces barged into the establishment and then covered the CCTV camera with a rug.
The NPA said what it did was against the alleged biggest “comprador-usurer” in Valencia and its adjacent towns. It said there were also complaints of exploitation from numerous rice-planting farmers.
Magbanwag also questioned Bernal’s transactions with the National Food Authority (NFA).
“It has been the modus to remill and resack NFA rice, and then sell them to traders as well-milled and premium rice,” alleged Magbanuag.
He said rebels despised the “callous act of amassing giant profits amidst the worsening hunger situation and the scarcity of rice produce due to prolonged drought.”
The seized rice, said Magbanuag, would be distributed to hungry farmers to offer a minor relief.
He also warned the “despotic landlords, usurers, heartless traders and their unscrupulous accomplice officials that they must halt these oppressive and exploitative acts.”
Councilor Bernal has reportedly told Banlag Barangay chairman Jovy Boje that she no longer wanted the recovered sacks of rice back, and that she wanted these given for free to villagers.
Bernal also reportedly denied the NPA’s allegations, saying she and her family have been doing honest business for 28 years and never were they involved in illegal transactions.