By Alexis Romero, The Philippine Star | 02/16/2013 8:38 AM
MANILA, Philippines - Communist rebels are demanding as much as P5 million from local candidates in exchange for “campaign permits,” the military said yesterday.
Armed Forces spokesman Col. Arnulfo Burgos Jr. cited documents gathered by Army troops in the field showing the fees demanded by the New People’s Army (NPA) range from P50,000 to P5 million, depending on the post being eyed by the candidate.
The alleged extortion campaign of the NPA persists amid the military’s claims that it has achieved gains against insurgency. The military admitted the rebels extorted more than P25 million from individuals and businesses last year.
Burgos said the NPA is seeking P5 million in “electoral alliance fee” from those running for governor in Eastern Visayas.
Politicians running for vice governor and congressman are reportedly being asked to pay P500,000.
Mayoralty and board member bets seeking the rebels’ support were reportedly told to pay P100,000.
Those running for vice mayor and councilor, Burgos said, were asked to pay P75,000 and P50,000, respectively.
“The AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) received information that members of the NPA have begun their extortion activities,” Burgos said.
Burgos claimed the rebels had issued color-coded “permits to win” and “permits to campaign” during the 2010 polls.
The blue cards worth about P2 million were supposedly offered to congressional and gubernatorial candidates; while the yellow, green and red ones priced between P10,000 and P500,000 were intended for other candidates.
The cards reportedly bore serial numbers and the signature of the local NPA leader guaranteeing that the rebels would allow the bearer to campaign within their territories.
Burgos said they received information that the NPA has already started sending out rates, specifically to local candidates in Northern Luzon and Eastern Visayas.
The military appealed to candidates to avoid giving money to the rebels, saying this would only worsen the insurgency problem.
“If candidates give in to extortion demands, their means to conduct terrorist activities will increase,” Burgos said.
Burgos appealed to politicians to report extortion incidents to security forces.
“Our security countermeasures are already in place and then we have directed our commanders to intensify the proactive security patrols,” he said.
Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas II also appealed to candidates not to give in to NPA demands.
Roxas said candidates should not pay for any permit to campaign to the rebels.
He said the money the NPA collects is being used to finance the effort against the government and the people.
Roxas said the Philippine National Police (PNP) has started investigating reports of the NPA extortion on local candidates. He said the PNP is closely coordinating with the AFP on security measures against the NPA.
Among the security measures are the setting up of random checkpoints and continuous enforcement of the election gun ban. – With Cecille Suerte Felipe