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‘Reject NPA poll demands’

Delon Porcalla - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - Candidates in the coming elections should not give in to the demands of the New People’s Army (NPA) and pay for “permit to campaign” in areas where communist guerillas operate, Malacañang said yesterday.

“We have consistently asked local candidates to not succumb to these demands and to report any of these requests for payment to the DILG (Department of the Interior and Local Government) so the proper response can be made in those particular areas,” deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said.

While the government cannot guarantee absolute protection for candidates, the public may help by reporting to authorities suspicious goings-on, particularly in areas where rebels are known to operate, Valte said.

Her advice came in the wake of an attack on the convoy of Gingoog Mayor Ruth Guingona in a remote village in Misamis Oriental late Saturday at a checkpoint set up by guerillas.

Killed in the ambush were two of her bodyguards. Guingona was wounded in the ambush along with two other aides.

“Of course, given the limitations of the forces that we have, we cannot guard them all of the time. That is why we are asking for the cooperation of the public, the local candidates, to give us information that would help in the operations,” she said.

“Again, we have already mentioned to our PNP (Philippine National Police) and also to our politicians who are campaigning not to give in to the demands of the CPP-NPA-NDF. This scheme is not tolerated under our system of government,” presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said.

“The AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) is fully aware and they have taken steps to ensure that the politicians are spared from all this permit to campaign,” Lacierda said.

“Now, we would like to ask the local candidates to inform us of such demands, and we will let AFP units go and make sure that there are no NPA checkpoints. This is not tolerated under this system of government,” he stressed.

Malacañang has strongly condemned the attack on Guingona and her companions. The mayor is the wife of former vice president Teofisto Guingona Jr. and the mother of Sen. Teofisto Guingona III.

“We have already been told that the army’s 58th Infantry Battalion will be spearheading the investigation,” Lacierda said.

Saturday’s incident has prompted the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to include Gingoog City in the poll body’s list of “areas of immediate concern” in the coming May elections.

“That is a big deal already since it is the second stage,” Comelec chairman Sixto Brillantes said.

Guidelines prepared by the PNP identify four degrees of concerns in the elections – area of concern, area of immediate concern, area of great concern, area that needs to be placed under Comelec control.

While the Ginoog incident was a police and military issue, the Comelec “just got involved a little since it involved a mayor,” Brillantes said.

He said the Comelec is strongly against setting up of NPA checkpoints and that it has agreed to the deployment of additional military battalion to the area.

“Even if it is not the elections, the NPA should not have checkpoints,” he said.

Unrepentant

After apologizing to Guingona for Saturday’s attack, the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) demanded that politicians follow its guidelines for campaigning.

In a statement, the CPP said the guidelines were meant to ensure that campaign sorties in areas held by “revolutionary authorities” are held peacefully.

It also claimed that the guerillas who attacked Guingona’s convoy were only defending themselves.

“All units of the NPA are tasked to ensure the implementation of these policies. The setting up of checkpoints is among the measures being carried out by the NPA to ensure compliance,” CPP said in a statement.

But the military stressed the setting of roadblocks by the NPA is unlawful.

“We reiterate that these are not checkpoints. These are roadblocks being conducted by the NPAs. These are illegal and these do not serve the interest of the Filipino people,” Armed Forces deputy public affairs chief Maj. Emmanuel Garcia said.

Garcia said security forces would continue to perform their mandate to protect the citizens from armed groups.

The CPP said one of the policies spelled out in the guidelines is a ban on the carrying of firearms by the candidates and their men in areas “under the authority of the people’s democratic government.”

“Such a policy is being implemented in order to prevent politicians from intimidating the people and prevent armed encounters between rival politicians,” the group said.

“Majority of the candidates participating in the reactionary elections within the areas under revolutionary authority have concurred with and followed these policies. The CPP urges all candidates to do the same,” the group said. With Jess Diaz, Mayen Jaymalin, Jaime Laude, Rhodina Villanueva, Alexis Romero

ABIGAIL VALTE ALEXIS ROMERO AREAS ARMED FORCES ARMED FORCES OF THE PHILIPPINES CANDIDATES COMELEC GUINGONA NPA
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