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Reds raking it in from election extortion – Army

Alexis Romero - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - Candidates in the forthcoming midterm elections are paying between P100,000 and P5 million to buy protection from the New People’s Army (NPA), a senior military official said yesterday.

Maj. Gen. Jose Mabanta, commander of the Philippine Army’s 3rd Division, said the candidates believe that giving in to the rebels’ demands would spare them from harassment.

“My estimate is that half of all political contenders in my area (Western Visayas) are paying. That is also true in other areas,” he said.

Mabanta said the fees demanded by the NPA depend on the post eyed by the candidates. He did not identify the politicians who are giving money to the insurgents.

Some 18,000 posts are up for grabs in the May 13 elections, including town and city mayors, provincial governors and members of Congress.

“With the amounts involved, they (NPA) will be buying arms and ammunition and these may be fired and used against them (politicians),” Mabanta said, warning that those who will provide financial help to insurgents may face criminal charges.

“We will not allow this and we will ensure that their decision to give in will have legal repercussions,” he added.

Mabanta said the protection money raised dwarfs the amounts regularly extorted from mining, logging and other businesses based in the rural areas where the 4,000-member guerrilla force operates. The military claims the insurgents have extorted more than P25 million from businesses and individuals last year.

“This is when really the NPAs make a killing out of their extortion,” he said.

The military claims the NPA has been issuing campaign permits in exchange for cash.

“Giving in to the demands is not a guarantee that the CPP (Communist Party of the Philippines)-NPA will not harass the candidates anymore and will be given access. There is evidence of politicians who give in to extortion demands but are continuously being harassed,” Mabanta said.

Last week, NPA members ambushed the convoy of Ruth Guingona, the 78-year-old mayor of Gingoog City in Mindanao, killing two of her aides.

Officials have condemned the attack, calling it a violation of human rights. Security forces believe the rebels behind the ambush were just making their presence felt to pressure politicians to comply with their extortion demands.

The CPP has expressed regret for the incident but claimed that the first shots came from Guingona’s aides.

NPA strength to be assessed

Meanwhile, the Army yesterday said it will assess the strength of the NPA in the wake of successive attacks staged by the rebels recently against civilians and soldiers.

Brig. Gen. Ricardo Visaya, officer-in-charge of the Army’s 4th division, said the assessment would include the identification of the rebels’ “centers of gravities.”

“Because of the election, we intend to do it successfully. (Atrocities) like those that happened to Mayor Guingona should not happen again,” he said.

Visaya said they would employ combat operations, civil-military operations and intelligence gathering to curb insurgency in their area.  

 

COMMUNIST PARTY OF THE PHILIPPINES GINGOOG CITY JOSE MABANTA MABANTA MAYOR GUINGONA NEW PEOPLE NPA PHILIPPINE ARMY RICARDO VISAYA RUTH GUINGONA
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