'NPA extorts up to P5M from each candidate'
MANILA, Philippines - The New People's Army (NPA) is extorting millions of pesos from candidates in the May elections and will likely use the money to buy guns, a senior military official said on Sunday, April 28.
Major General Jose Mabanta, commander of the Philippine Army's 3rd Infantry Division, said each candidate, who wants to gain access to rebel-controlled areas, pays between P50,000 and P5 million.
"My estimate is that half of all political contenders are paying, half in my area. That is also true in other areas," he told reporters.
Some 18,000 posts are up for grabs in the May 13 elections, from the current crop of 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.
The 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, he added.
"This is when really the NPAs make a killing out of their extortion," he added.
Last week, the NPA ambushed Gingoog City Mayor Ruth Guingona, mother of Senator Teofisto Guingona III, killing two of her aides and leaving her and two policemen wounded.
Violence linked to the polls has claimed at least 46 lives in more than 40 incidents since campaigning began in February, according to a police tally.
'Don't give in to extortion'
Mabanta urged candidates to reject the NPA's demands and its permit-to-campaign scheme.
“Giving in to the demands is not a guarantee that the CPP-NPA will not harass the candidates anymore and candidates will be given access,” he said.
Military records show that 7 ranking NPA leaders have been apprehended since January in Negros Occidental and Panay. Copies of permit to campaign were recovered from some of the arrested rebel leaders.
Mabanta also warned candidates against paying the rebels, saying this is only "helping [them] regroup."
"Candidates who are giving in to the demands are helping the rebels further conduct terroristic activities that victimize innocent people."
Criminal charges will be filed against candidates, who will be caught paying the NPA, he added.
The NPA has been waging a 44-year-old Maoist armed campaign that has claimed at least 30,000 lives, according to government estimates. - with reports from Gilbert Bayoran/Rappler.com and Agence France-Presse