'NPA-linked' Leyte group hit for shortchanging farmers

By Sarwell Meniano / Philippine News Agency

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TACLOBAN CITY – A non-government organization linked to the New People's Army (NPA) has been accused of shortchanging farmers in Carigara, Leyte.


Former members of the Leyte Center for Development, Inc. (LCDE) reported to the Philippine Army that despite a huge amount poured in for post-Super Typhoon Yolanda recovery in 2013, they received barely enough help to rebuild their lives after the disaster.


"The farmers felt aggrieved that the organization merely used them to generate funds from humanitarian aid agencies and other donors," the Army's 802nd Infantry Brigade said in a statement on Saturday.


They complained that the few farm pieces of machinery distributed by LCDE from 2014 to 2016 were "defective" and that they spent their own money for its repair to make the equipment functional.


Likewise, LCDE members in Hiluctogan, Canlampay, Caghalo, and Candigahub villages in Carigara town claimed that the few farm animals such as carabaos and goats, dispersed to them by the agency were "sickly."


Farmers wanted to discuss the problem with LCDE Executive Director Jazmin Jerusalem but the NGO stopped visiting their place after 2016.


To resolve the issue, the Municipal Upland Farmers Association of Carigara (MUFAC) members decided to sell the defective farm equipment and sickly animals and divided the proceeds among themselves.


Using the fund assistance from Peace Wind of Japan – another NGO supporting people in distress, and threatened by conflict, poverty, or other turmoil – LCDE with the help of a local politician distributed construction materials like coconut lumber, roofing sheets, and nails to pre-identified typhoon victims, mostly members of MUFAC.


MUFAC was later renamed to LCDE when the former was embroiled in financial controversy, the military statement said.


Bernie Bates, an NPA member arrested in April 2021 in his hideout in Hiluctogan village, revealed that the NPA assigned him during day-time as "volunteer carpenter" to help the MUFAC member-beneficiaries in rebuilding their houses.


At night, he had to report back to the NPA camp at the forested area of the neighboring village of Canlampay, near his home.


"Bernie claimed that there were occasions that LCDE Executive Director Jerusalem visited their livelihood projects in Carigara and in those occasions she also met Juanito Sellesa Jr., alias Tibor, platoon commander of NPA Eastern Visayas regional party committee," the Army added.


After the super typhoon on Nov. 8, 2013, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs has tapped LCDE as one of its partners in the implementation of recovery projects.


LCDE was involved in all three phases of the post-typhoon response – emergency phase covering the period from November 2013 to February 2014; early recovery phase from February to December 2014; and the medium-term recovery from January 2015 to November 2016.


The four villages in Carigara where LCDE implemented most of the heavily funded medium-term recovery projects were in the same communities where the NPA rebels were active from 2007 until 2020.


In a webinar organized by the Army's 802nd Infantry Brigade, Alma Gabin, former deputy secretary for education of NPA Eastern Visayas Committee, claimed that many funded projects of LCDE in post-Typhoon Yolanda were either done as "credible reality" or "partial implementation" to divert half or more of the funding to the communist terrorist group.


"We used both our left and right hands to sign the attendance sheets and documents just to make it appear that we executed the training projects but actually we diverted the money to the NPA to support the armed struggle that aims to topple the government," Gabin said.


Farmer-members of the MUFAC-LCDE challenged Jerusalem to face them and provide the answers to assure them they are not being shortchanged.


The Philippine News Agency (PNA) has reached out to the LCDE for comments through its Facebook account and received an automatic generated reply saying: "Hi, thanks for contacting us. We've received your message and appreciate you reaching out."


The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP)-NPA is listed as a terrorist organization by the United States, European Union, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the Philippines. (PNA)

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