Following a rush of corporate investment in the 1960s, agroindustry company NDC-Guthrie set up camp on the Philippine island of Mindanao. The company hired a private security force dubbed the “Lost Command” to protect its oil palm plantations.Sources say the Lost Command used violence to expand NDC-Guthrie’s land holdings in the 1980s, with allegations ranging from forcibly displacing residents of local communities and extorting business-owners to looting, rape, and even murder.In the 1990s NDC-Guthrie was bought by Filipinas Palm Oil Plantations Inc. (FPPI), which continues to operate in the region today. A company representative said “issues have been blown up” and that FPPI is interested in expanding further in Mindanao.The administration of former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo (2001-2010) touted oil palm propagation as a way to elevate the national economy and even stem armed conflict. But industry watchdog groups disagree, saying palm oil’s track record of conflict in the Philippine archipelago does not bode well for the future. PROSPERIDAD, Philippines – “Without me, Guthrie would be nothing,” boasted Colonel Carlos Lademora in an interview with an unaffiliated journalist in 1989. The Colonel, laughing and elfin, reclining in a wicker rocking chair as his pink, freshly-painted toe nails dried, bore little resemblance to what one would picture to be the commander of a private army. But as the leader of the Lost Command, Lademora earned his reputation as “The Butcher,” his armed men accused of raping, looting and killing while they were employed as a security force in the 1980s for the palm oil holdings of NDC-Guthrie Plantations, Inc. in Agusan del Sur province on the Philippine island of Mindanao. “I helped Guthrie drive out the Communists,” Lademora explained, referring to the leftist New People’s Army (NPA). But most of those “Communists” were local farmers or native Manobos, according to a 1985 publication by the NGO Alternate Forum for Research in Mindanao (AFRIM). AFRIM claims more than 5,000 people were displaced from their rice and corn farms as Guthrie moved in, grabbing 8,000 hectares of land between the towns of San Francisco and Rosario. The Lost Command consisted of 200-300 members, mostly ex-soldiers or criminals, with an armed core of 40. They lived off the populace by extorting protection money from shop owners, looting stores, stealing farm animals and running gambling rings, AFRIM reported. During an interview in February 2017, Josephine Canteros, who is now a village councilor in Maligaya, said her family moved to the area in 1980, just as Guthrie and the Lost Command started to dislocate the indigenous peoples (called Lumad) and log the virgin forest. “Killed,” “forced,” “afraid” are some of the words she used to describe the atmosphere people lived in. According to a 1988 report by the Philippine Partnership for Development of Human Resources in Rural Areas (PhilDHRRA), families waited out nights when men with guns arrived to knock on their doors, advising them on the benefits of abandoning their land. The report claims that those they couldn’t coerce or harass into selling out were often killed, as were some of the labor union leaders organizing Guthrie’s newly-born work force. An investigatory document by the University of the Philippines found that in 1981 alone there were 30 unexplained murders in the community. The island of Mindanao lies at southern extent of the Philippine archipelago. Satellite imagery from Google Earth captured in 2016 shows tree plantations in Agusan del Sur. The AFRIM report asserts displaced farmers turned to the NPA, exacerbating the tension and conflict in the area. In 1984 the NPA launched a series of raids designed to castigate Guthrie and the Lost Command. They attempted to burn down the palm oil mill and were more successful in eliminating some of Lademora’s men, killing 37 of them in a single attack. During his 1989 interview, Lademora claimed “Guthrie didn’t give me a single centavo,” but other sources like PhilDHRRA say he was paid over $500 a month for his services. In-country NDC-Guthrie manager at the time, Bruce Clew, was quoted by AFRIM as saying: “Guthrie wants an empire in the Philippines.” And the Lost Command helped them get it. Conflict in the Land of Promise Known as the “Land of Promise,” the island of Mindanao experienced a major rush of corporate investment in the 1960s by agricultural giants like Dole, Del Monte, United Brands, Goodyear and Firestone Rubber. There were a number of palm oil plantations in operation by then, including the Menzi Agricultural Corporation, established in the 1950s, but it was in 1980 that the British-, and later Malaysian-owned, firm Guthrie Plantations Inc. partnered with the Philippine government’s National Development Corporation (NDC), which allowed the joint-venture to circumnavigate constitutional limitations on foreign land ownership. It was under the atmosphere of impunity created by the 1972-1981 period of martial law, imposed by President Ferdinand Marcos, that Guthrie started doing business in Mindanao.