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Extortion letters recovered from encounter site

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• GILBERT P. BAYORAN

Army soldiers have recovered numerous copies of rebels’ extortion letters at the encounter site in Brgy, Carabalan, Himamaylan City, Negros Occidental.

The letters contained demands to impose what the rebels refer as “revolutionary tax” or “permit to operate fee” on businesses, especially in rural areas where they have a strong presence, a statement issued by the 94th Infantry Battalion said.

Lt. Col. Van Donald Almonte, 94IB commander, said “this tax is an essential source of funding for the group’s activities, including their armed struggle against the government.”

Almonte added that the CPP-NPA justifies the tax as a means of levying fees from businesses that operate within their “territorial jurisdiction.”

The encounter on Wednesday claimed the lives of four suspected NPA rebels, whose identities have yet to be established by the Philippine Army, and the recovery of assorted high powered firearms and explosives, among other items.

Almonte called on the public to immediately report any rebel extortion activities.

The encounter also caused the temporary dislocation of 181 families residing in five remote sitios of Brgy. Carabalan, Himamaylan City, who are now staying at the evacuation center of the barangay.

Capt. Eduardo Rarugal, 94IB Civil Military Operations Officer, reported that Mayor Raymundo Tongson, who immediately sent food packs to the displaced families, also conducted series of psycho-social talks to help the evacuees lessen their worries and fears of the eventualities that occurred in their locality.

Gov. Eugenio Jose Lacson and Col. Orlando Edralin, 303rd Infantry Brigade commander, reiterated their calls for the NPA remnants to surrender, before it is too late for them.*

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