Leyte farmers stand firm on assertion linking NGO to NPA
By Sarwell Meniano / Philippine News Agency
PALO, Leyte – Farmers in Carigara, Leyte have insisted on the ties between the Leyte Center for Development, Inc. (LCDe) and the New People’s Army (NPA).
During a rally outside the LCDe office here on Tuesday, a group of 30 farmers carried placards tagging the non-government organization (NGO) as a front of the communist terrorist group.
“We believe they are linked to the NPA because the LCDe is present in NPA-initiated activities. For years, the organization served as facilitator of Municipal Upland Farmers Association of Carigara (MUFAC),” said Alicia Cañares, a former focal person and treasurer of MUFAC.
The Philippine Army’s 802nd Infantry Brigade earlier identified MUFAC as a front organization of the NPAs in Carigara town.
Organized in 2010, the association had 6,000 members in upland communities.
LCDe executive director Jasmin Jerusalem said their 33-year track record tells of their advocacy to help the government end poverty, especially in remote communities.
“Their allegations are untrue, brazen, threatening, and malicious. Since 1988, we have been in operation serving poor and vulnerable communities in the region. We have been active in supporting poverty alleviation projects of the government,” Jerusalem told reporters after the demonstration.
On Sept. 10, the Philippine Army issued a press statement accusing the LCDe of shortchanging farmers in the distribution of aid after Super Typhoon Yolanda in 2013.
The LCDe allegedly used the poor farmers in Carigara town to generate donations from foreign donors, according to Cañares, adding the farmers also received defective farm machinery from the NGO.
Cañares, 53, had been doing errands for the NPA since he was 14. Her father, a village chief for 25 years, was a staunch supporter of the communist terrorist group.
She formally abandoned the communist ideology in 2015.
“We cannot please everyone even if we follow all government regulations. Our donors are strict and they checked all our expenses after the super typhoon. Our funds are audited by an external auditor,” said Jerusalem, a private sector representative of the Regional Development Council.
Their group winning the "Gawad Kalasag" award in 2008 given by the Department of National Defense to the best organization in Humanitarian Response and Disaster Management is proof of the government’s appreciation of their work, according to Jerusalem.
The group also received recognitions from the Department of Social Welfare and Development and the National Economic and Development Authority.
Carigara is about 48 kilometers northwest of Tacloban, the regional capital. It is a second-class town with a population of over 54,000.
The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP)-NPA, which has been waging a five-decade armed struggle against the government, is listed as a terrorist organization by the United States, the European Union, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the Philippines. (PNA)