GLORIA VOWS TO UNMASK RED FRONTS

(MALAYA) President Arroyo yesterday said the government is monitoring front organizations of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People's Army-National Democratic Front to cut their links from domestic and foreign funding sources.

"We will identify and expose the growing number of front organizations of the CPP-NPA-NDF ... We will mount a full court press on the security and developmental components of this threat," she told the Bishops-Businessmen's Conference for Human Development in Taguig.

Arroyo said the government would also conduct a political, social and economic audit on the 500 or so NPA-influenced barangays identified by the intelligence community.

She said the move will provide the government an idea on how to come up with counter-measures that would "extricate these poverty-stricken barangays from the grip of dissidents."

Interior Secretary Jose Lina Jr. has already started coordinating with local officials whose barangays maybe identified as "influenced, controlled, infiltrated or threatened" by the NPA.

The military has intensified intelligence gathering in the Cordillera Administrative Region and Ilocos region where the NPA has marijuana plantations.

Lt. Col. Daniel Lucero, AFP public information chief, said latest intelligence reports showed the CPP/NPA has marijuana plantations in the boundaries of Benguet, Ilocos Sur and La Union.

Lucero said a major proof of NPA involvement in the illegal drug trade was the discovery of marijuana plants worth P57.6 million in Benguet on Feb. 14 last year.

"The marijuana plantation was positively identified to have been maintained by the Ilocos-Cordillera Regional Party Committee particularly by the Chad Molintas Command," said Lucero.

An encounter between soldiers from the 71st Infantry Battalion and communist guerrillas in Nueva Ecija last Saturday led to the discovery of a newly-constructed NPA camp in sitio Bantay Lakay in barangay Digdig Carranglan town.

Col. Jovenal Narcise, commander of the 702nd Infantry Battalion, said the camp has an area of 4,000 square meters and can accommodate 200 persons.

Defense Secretary Angelo Reyes ordered the military to hunt down the NPA guerrillas in Agusan del Norte who tortured to death Florante Ocmen, a leader of the cause-oriented group Akbayan.

Ocmen was abducted last May.

Investigation showed Ocmen accosted the guerrillas who burned heavy equipment of Pascual Construction Corp. because the firm refused to pay its workers.

An NPA rebel was killed in a clash in Del Gallego town, Camarines Sur on Monday, Lt. Col. Joselito Kakilala, Army spokesman, said.

Kakilala said troops from the 31st Infantry Battalion were on patrol in the village of Kinalagan around 12:30 p.m. when they chanced upon a group of seven rebels.

He said there was no casualty on the government side. (With Victor Reyes and Jojo de Guzman)


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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