Rebels own up vehicle torching in North Cotabato town

KIDAPAWAN CITY — The New Peoples’ Army (NPA) operating in South and Central Mindanao has owned up the burning last Monday of a private vehicle owned by a landowner in Makilala, North Cotabato.

In a statement issued to media Wednesday, Macario Dilaab, spokesperson for the Mount Alip Operations Command of the NPA Front 72, said they decided to torch the Suzuki multi-cab owned by Ezequiel Vega because of his alleged unfair labor practices towards his plantation workers.

Vega owns at least 60 hectares of rubber farms in Makilala town.

Dilaab said that Vega has terminated a number of workers in his farms and failed to give the benefits due them.

Vega, in an interview, denied all the allegations hurled against him.

He said he has treated his workers fairly and even gave them more than what they needed.

“I have helped them erect their houses inside my farms with water and electric connections. I gave them bonuses every December and sent them to resorts during Christmas parties,” said Vega.

Vega told Makilala PNP he witnessed the torching of his Suzuki multi-cab, which he used daily to visit his farm.

Around 10:30 a.m. Monday, three armed men identifying themselves as members of the NPA went inside his compound. Two of the suspects poked their guns on him while the other one poured on the gasoline on his multi-cab.

“They told me to stay put as they burned my vehicle. I was praying they won’t kill me,” said Vega.

Vega said they are contemplating on filing arson charges against the NPAs.

“It was so unfortunate this group was given wrong information about me and my family. They should have asked me if the reports that reached them were true,” said Vega.

The Makilala PNP has already invited six of Vega’s plantation workers whom they believed could give hints as to the identities of the suspects.

The torching of Vega’s multi-cab last Monday was the third incident since February.

On Friday, the communist guerillas torched five heavy equipment owned by the RDI Construction Company at Barangay San Roque in Kidapawan City.

Three days later, they burned another two heavy equipment owned by a private construction company in Digos City in Davao del Sur.

Extortion was believed as the motive behind the torching incident, authorities said. (PNA)

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