Philippines: NPA Taxes Politicians to Campaign in Their Zones
Posted by Ka Frank on January 28, 2010
This article was published in the Business Mirror on January 26, 2010.
Military ordered to expose politicians who yield to NPA extortion demands
Defense Secretary Norberto Gonzales on Monday ordered the military to expose politicians who are providing financial aid to the New People’s Army by paying so-called permit to campaign and permit-to-win fees this coming elections. Gonzales issued the order in the wake of reports that some candidates have agreed to pay the NPA just to be allowed to campaign in areas where the rebels have a significant presence.
On Sunday, Brig. Gen. Francisco Cruz, Armed Forces Civil Relations Service commander, disclosed that even companies that are involved in the coming elections are the subject of extortion by the communist rebels. Cruz cited the case of Smartmatic, the company that has been contracted to supply the machines for the automated polls, that has been told by the NPA to pay to be allowed to conduct signal surveys in areas where the rebels operate. Cruz said the rebels expect to generate a lot of money this coming elections from the candidates who succumb to NPA demands.
During his visit to the headquarters of the Southern Luzon Command (Solcom) in Quezon, Gonzales was told by military officials that there are “politicians of national prominence” who are “friendly to the rebels” and were “readily submitting” to the group’s extortion activities. He was told that while NPA operations and other activities have steadily declined in the Solcom’s area of responsibility, the rebels’ election-related extortion activities remain in Southern Tagalog.
“I was informed that NPA extortion activities even broadened in Quezon where there are politicians of national prominence who are friendly to the rebels and readily submit to their extortion,” Gonzales said.
In contrast, Gonzales said, there are also politicians resisting the rebels’ extortion, like a governor on Mindoro Island who is supporting the military in its fight against the NPA. Gonzales said rebels’ extortion activities in Batangas were suspended after soldiers captured three key NPA “tax collectors” in the province on January 13. He said Solcom officers are talking to candidates, telling them not to fear the NPA and assuring them of military protection if needed.