NPAs eye P5B from poll extortion

March 5, 2010 11:14 pm 

MANILA, March 5 – A top official of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) on Friday said the New People’s Army (NPA), the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), is projected to generate about P2 to P5 billion from their permit to campaign (PTC)and permit to win (PTW)fees this year.

Comelec commissioner Rene Sarmiento, interviewed after a dialogue with Army commanders, also said that the NPAs collected P1.5 billion and P2 billion during the 2004 and 2007 elections, respectively, through such extortion schemes.

“According to the reports we received today, the NPAs in 2004 raised P1.5 billion. In 2007, they raised P2 billion. For 2010, according to the reports, it will range from P2 billion to P5 billion,” Sarmiento told reporters.

“These are serious reports because these have repercussions on our elections and democracy. I hope our institutions, including AFP and PNP, will address the serious character of these PTCs and PTWs,” said Sarmiento.

Sarmiento said the money that the NPAs stand to earn “could threaten the existence of democracy.”

When asked what was the basis of his information, Sarmiento said: “This was a report coming from one of our reactors, Prof. Rommel Banlaoi. He is the source of this information…If its true, the P2 to P5 billion is alarming.”

Banlaoi is currently the chairman of the board and the executive director of the Philippine Institute for Peace, Violence, and Terrorism Research. He is also the head the PIPVTR’s center for intelligence and national security studies.

When asked what will the Comelec do against the candidates who give in to the extortion demands of the communists, Sarmiento said: “That has to be carefully studied by Comelec. With these reports coming in this morning, I think our policy makers, even Comelec, should talk about it.”

The collections of the NPA in the 2004 and 2007 elections, as revealed by Sarmiento, was contrary to a military document leaked over a couple of weeks ago. The military document said the NPAs only collected P56.71 million in the 2004 elections and P27.67 in the 2007 elections. <p.Sarmiento said that based on the election laws, a person who resorts to coercion and intimidation can be punished by one year to six years of imprisonment. He also said the person can be denied of the right to suffrage and disqualification to hold public office.

When asked how many politicians are they looking at to have acceded to the rebels’ extortion, Sarmiento said: “We have no idea. We have listened to the generals, according to them in their areas, there are ongoing PTCs and PTWs. For instance in one province in the Bicol region, there are 500 documents that would show PTCs and PTWs and color coded documents.”

Sarmiento asked politicians not to give in to the NPA’s extortion demands. “That should be included in the ongoing debates, national debates participated in by our candidates. I think this should be part of the question and answer to inform the public,” he said.

Maj. Gen. Ruperto Pabustan, commander of the 9th Infantry Division, said that documents seized following encounters with the rebels showed that the communists were asking as much as P2 million from national candidates and P1 million for gubernatorial and vice gubernatorial candidates.

Pabustan said congressional candidates were asked to pay P500,000 while mayoral and vice mayoral candidates were demanded P250,000, and candidates for councilor, P50,000.

“Another document showed that for an whole lineup, they are collecting P1.5 million to P2 million. That’s all in all. That is according to the documents,” he said.

“I’m sure the money that will be collected in the whole Bicol region will be sent to the national level of the CPP/NPA and a certain percentage will remain to them in the province to buy their firearms, ammos, and their provisions for future tactical operations against government troops,” Pabustan said.(PNA) RMA/VR

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