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New body eyed against rebels’ extortion activities

A MILITARY official said the creation of an additional cluster in the Regional Task Group to End Local Communist Armed Conflict will help stop the long-running insurgency program in the country.

Speaking during the Regional Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (RTF-ELCAC) X meeting Thursday, Major General Andres Centino, commander of Joint Task Force Diamond under Eastern Mindanao Command said in the national and regional levels there are already 12 clusters, one key problem, extortion, has not been addressed.

Centino said extortion activities have become the primary sources of funds for the Communist rebels.

This prompted the RTF-ELCAC to recommend a cluster that will focus on the problem.

He said that the government has been able to inform foreign donor agencies who donate to local groups in the country that “(the fund that) they were giving did not actually reach the intended beneficiaries.”

“It (funding from foreign donors) has been going on, has continued for so long a time that is why Insurgency has also continued despite the efforts of our (civilian) government and military they still had the resources and capability to resurrect their movement although they suffered losses with the surrender of their members  because they can replenish (both funding and members),” he said.

He added that the rebels have also been launching extortion activities the business sectors like companies in mining, transport, telecommunications. Other victims are those affluent individuals and politicians.

“Based on the report maybe they (victims) were afraid of  and were forced to give instead of having their businesses disrupted,” he said.

He said the military has been “gathering information and building then database” which would become the component in launching the new cluster.Based on the report of the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency (NICA), in Region 10 the rebels were able extort about P5.5 billion between 2016 to 2019.

Regional State Prosecutor Merlynn Uy said the additional cluster will help stop the rebels from engaging in extortion activities.

“This is really important because it will strengthen our capability in the case build up and it will help us identifying  the sources of funds and we can be better building up cases against this individuals, groups, businesses, corporation, and even local officials,” she said.he added that the new Anti-Terrorism Act will also be tapped to punish those who support the rebels. “So with this we will be able to achieve successful prosecution and conviction in court of these particular individuals or associations,” Uy said.

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