BUENAVISTA, Agusan del Norte – A former Militia ng Bayan (MB) of the communist New People’s Army (NPA) revealed how the rebels handle their extortion activities to profit millions of pesos every month in the province of Agusan del Norte.
Alias “Darlyn,” 39, married with eight children told Philippine News Agency Sunday (April 26) that she has been an active MB from 2014 up to the end of March this year.
She, together with two other female MBs and one female regular member of Guerrilla Front 4A (GF-4A), surrendered to Lt. Col. Francisco L. Molina Jr., the commander of 23rd Infantry Battalion (23IB) on April 6, 2020.
“Sulod sa kapin upat ka tuig isip MB, ang akong tahas mao ang pagkolekta sa mga binulan ug regular nga mga hatagon sa mga negosyante sa Butuan ngadto sa kalihukan (For more than four years as MB, my task was to collect the monthly and regular subsidies of businessmen in Butuan to the movement),” Darlyn said.
She also acted as a purchaser for the needs of GF-4A members especially food, medicines and personal needs.
She recalled that sometime in 2015, she was tasked to buy black backpacks and cloths to be used as hammocks all worth PHP60,000.
In the same year, she was also asked to buy 38 pieces of ammunition for .45-caliber pistol in a gun store in Butuan.
“If I am not collecting or making purchases, I was also tasked to monitor the movement of the Army and the Philippine National Police (PNP) in our village in Butuan,” Darlyn said.
Money from falcata
Darlyn said that from 2014 to late 2019, her main task was to collect money from falcata buyers in Butuan City.
“Aside from me, another MB is also monitoring how many 10-wheeler trucks of falcata are entering the yard of a certain buyer and report the same to GF-4A. The report of the other MB is the basis of my collection,” she added.
HUGE DISBURSEMENTS. One of the notebooks recovered by the troopers of 23IB of the Army after an encounter last April 24, 2020 in Sitio Kawayanan, Barangay Nongnong, Butuan City shows thousands of disbursements made by Guerrilla Front 4-A of the New People’s Army (NPA) operating in the province of Agusan del Norte. (PNA photo by Alexander Lopez)
Darlyn emphasized that GF-4A asks for PHP2,000 per 10-wheeler truck loaded with pulps or smaller in sizes of logged Falcata; PHP3,000 per 10-wheeler truck loaded with big sizes of logged falcata; and PHP1,000 for small trucks.
“There were times that one falcata buyer receives five 10-wheeler trucks filled with big logs. So that’s PHP15,000. I handled seven falcata buyers who also regularly receive five 10-wheeler trucks a day. I can collect around PHP105,000 in one transaction,” Darlyn said.
She also pointed out that she was not alone collecting money from falcata buyers in the area as other MBs were also performing like her task to other buyers of falcata.
“I cannot recall how many falcata buyers in Butuan but what I knew is that there were three other MBs who collected money from other falcata buyers in the city,” Darlyn said.
She added that falcata buyers had no choice but to submit to the demands of GF-4A as they were threatened of burning their 10-wheeler trucks and other equipment once they refuse.
Darlyn said she regularly collects around PHP400,000 to PHP500,000 every month from the seven falcata buyers assigned to her.
“I do not collect from them daily. It depends on the call from those in GF-4A. Sometimes I would be asked to go to the buyers once or twice a week,” she added.
Aside from falcata buyers, Darlyn revealed that she was also collecting PHP2,000 to PHP2,500 per month or assorted goods from stores in Butuan.
“Usually, I can collect around PHP50,000 from different stores in Butuan every month,” she said.
When asked how she managed to bring the bulk of the money to GF-4A, Darlyn said she already made many tricks of hiding money in motorcycles or vehicles.
Besides, she added, she was already known in police and Army detachments as a businesswoman.
There were also times when she was asked to send her collection to three to five persons through money couriers.
Despite the millions she handled for more than four years as MB and collector, Darlyn pointed out that she and her family continued to experience difficult life.
“While I was active as MB, my husband was also a full-time member of the NPA. He had difficulty in sustaining our needs. Though I was handling a huge amount of money, I was afraid to use some of it because I was warned to be subjected to disciplinary action. I suspected they would kill me. I was only allowed to use the money for transportation and food. I receive nothing from the NPA movement as a sort of compensation,” Darlyn said.
She added that her husband surrendered to 223IB in early 2020.
“I had no idea how the NPA disbursed the money I collected. I thought they would compensate my husband for him to regularly send money to us but none. If there were, only in a small amount not enough to sustain the needs of our children,” Darlyn said.
When the 2019 coronavirus disease (Covid-19) became a threat to the people of Agusan del Norte and the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) was subsequently implemented in the province and different towns, life in the NPA movement turned miserable, she noted.
She added that in the first week of March this year, GF-4A already experienced difficulties in securing food, medicines and other needs.
She also suspected that with the given situation, GF-4A leaders would force her, as an MB, to find ways to bring food supplies.
“That would be very dangerous. I decided not to be used anymore by them, I and my family had already suffered a lot,” Darlyn said.
“I decided to follow my husband, there’s no more reason to serve the NPA movement and their leaders. I joined the other MBs and regular members of GF-4A and we surrendered to 23IB,” she added.
Molina said MBs are the force of the NPA outside the war zones.
“They rely upon all their needs from the MB because they can freely move around outside the war zones to secure food, medicines, ammunition and the other needs,” he added.
Molina said the story of Darlyn substantiates the documents the 23IB troopers recovered after an encounter with GF-4A of the NPA last Friday (April 24) in Sitio Kawayanan, Barangay Nongnong, Butuan City.
“In one of the backpacks left by the NPAs at the encounter site, we recovered notebooks containing the identities, in persons or as business firms indicating the amount of money they regularly collect,” he said.
He added that the notebooks also contain disbursements or cash outs in huge sums with accompanying dates and names of persons disbursed.
“The notebooks and documents we recovered prove that the NPA in Agusan del Norte have enough resources to finance their terroristic activities,” Molina said.
He also urged the remaining members of GF-4A to surrender, saying that the government “is very soft if you decide to return to the folds of the law but very hard if you opt to continue with your terroristic acts.”
In a separate interview on Sunday, 1Lt. Roel Maglalang, the civil-military operation (CMO) officer of 23IB, said they are now reaching out to barangay levels to encourage the tired and hungry NPA members to surrender.
Maglalang said the best option for the NPA members in the midst of the pandemic is to surrender than die of hunger or disrupt the government distribution of relief goods to the people. (PNA)