TAGUM CITY, Davao del Norte, Philippines – The military has appealed to politicians and candidates anew not to give in to the demands of communist rebels for the so-called “permits-to-campaign fees” in Southern Mindanao in the run-up to local and national elections next May.
Maj. Gen. Rafael Valencia, commander of the Army’s 10th Infantry Division said the New People’s Army would use the money to bolster the NPA’s strength and resolve in bringing down the government.
Money the rebels could generate from politicians and candidates could reach millions of pesos, particularly in Davao and Caraga regions, where the New People’s Army has been strongest, said Valencia.
Documents recovered by soldiers during previous encounters with rebels in Davao del Sur pointed to an elaborate collection scheme of permits-to-campaign fees targeting some local politicians and candidates, Valencia said during a media forum here on Tuesday.
“Amounts run to as low as P40,000 for municipal candidates,” said Valencia, although he did not specify what elective position corresponded to what amount.
The prices for permits could go up in the days approaching the elections, he said, as they have been receiving reports about the rebels making some noise to politicians who have already filed their certificates of candidacy.
Valencia said the 10th ID, covering the regions of Davao and some parts of Agusan, Bukidnon and Sarangani provinces, has been closely coordinating with the Philippine National Police in ensuring the peaceful and orderly elections in 2016.
He said his command’s area of responsibility (AOR) has been designated as the national priority area of the government’s fight to crush the more than 46-year-old communist insurgency, one of Asia’s longest that has killed over 40,000 people and stunted growth in the resource-rich region.
“The NPA is very active in our area of responsibility due to its rich mineral and forest resources, which are the sources of the rebels’ financial and material supply,” said the military official.
He said the 10th ID has been facing 14 guerrilla fronts and their support units. Nine of these operate in the gold-rich Compostela Valley.
Valencia said it would be up to the politicians if they continue giving in to the rebels’ demands.
“The bigger amount candidates give to the rebels, the more damage this could cause to the government,” he said, adding he has already informed Davao del Sur politicians who were named in the NPA documents as would-be extortion victims.
During the 2013 elections, candidates for governor and Congress were asked to pay P1 million each to campaign in NPA-controlled areas in Compostela Valley, said Vice Gov. Manuel Zamora Jr.
“The rate for vice governor and mayor is at P500,000,” Zamora said in a previous interview.
He said he was able to negotiate by giving medicines and footing the P50,000-hospital bill of an NPA leader’s wife, instead.
Zamora said he gave assistance and not cash for a permit-to-campaign.
“I give assistance to soldiers, civilians or rebels. I don’t distinguish,” the vice governor said.
The military’s Internal Peace and Security Plan (IPSP) has been effective in clearing 1,134 villages in Southern Mindanao of rebels since January, with many of the remaining insurgents driven away to far-flung upland areas, said Valencia.
Since January, Valencia said, 79 rebels have been captured or killed in 129 encounters in 10th ID areas, including 19 key leaders. Twenty-five others surrendered. These clashes have led to the recovery or surrender of 116 firearms and 120 improvised explosive devices (IEDs), Valencia added. SFM