Authorities here believed the harassment carried out by communist rebels in a rubber plantation warehouse here was due to extortion.
Mayor Rudy Caoagdan of Makilala said prior to the attack by seven men who posed as applicants of the rubber firm, leaders of the New Peoples Army asked for a meeting with the owner of Pharma Rubber Industries. The meeting did not materialize.
Caoagdan could not say what was the purpose of the meeting but he said he can only surmise that the rebels wanted to extort from the banana firm.
”Extortion was obviously the motive,” Caoagdan said.
Rubber plantation owners in Makilala, the leader in raw rubber production in
North Cotabato, have been
receiving extortion letters from the communist guerrillas. If demands are
rejected, the rebels would harass the companies, he said.
At 6:30 a.m. on Monday, seven men riding tandem on motorbikes arrived at the warehouse of Pharma Rubber Industries to submit application letters as rubber tappers.
Once inside the warehouse office in Purok 5, Barangay San Vicente, the suspects pulled hand gun and disarmed the security guards of M-16 Armalite rifles, hand guns, ammunition and radio equipment.
The suspects then fled toward Barangay Luna Sur, a known bailiwick of the communist movement.
At about 7 a.m. a roadside bomb went off in Barangay San Vicente, the same road network leading to the firm’s warehouse.
Police said the road side bomb was intended for responding police or military personnel after the NPAs harassed the warehouse.
The blast hurt a motorist and a by stander.
Previous incidents of harassment in Makilala were always accompanied by roadside bombs.
“We are putting up plans to ensure the safety of business firms operating in the province,” he said.
Caoagdan expressed the belief that the security of everybody in the villages of Makilala was not the sole responsibility of the Army or the police.
”We need the support of the civilian populace to prevent similar incidents in the future,” he said, adding that the local government is bent on preventing violence in the mountains of Makilala where the communist movement has been active.
He called on the NPAs to open its door to localized peace talks so that no innocent civilians will be in danger.
”We are all brothers and sisters, we are all Filipinos, why don’t we talk and work together for the betterment of our people,” he told the NPAs through DXND Radyo Bida.
The Army has condemned the NPA for using weapons of mass destruction.
He said Army plainclothesmen will be deployed in areas known to be infiltrated by the NPA.