ILOILO City – The New People’s Army (NPA) in Western Visayas is imposing fees on midterm election candidates seeking to campaign in rebel-controlled areas which are mostly hinterland barangays.
The “permit to campaign” fee could be as high as P100,000, according to the Philippine Army’s 3rd Infantry Division (3ID) based in Jamindan, Capiz.
The campaign period for local elective posts is from March 29 to May 11. The elections are on May 13.
Complaints reaching the 3ID about this NPA imposition came from election candidates in the provinces of Iloilo, Capiz, Antique, and Aklan, said 1st Lieutenant Hazel Dulotan, civil military officer of the 3ID’s 61st Infantry Battalion (61IB).
The military is monitoring 105 NPA-threatened barangays in these provinces, said Dulotan.
One candidate who received a demand letter from the rebels is running for mayor. He alerted the Army.
“I know this candidate. He is not caving in to the rebels’ demand for a campaign fee,” said Dulotan.
She urged other candidates to do the same.
“Report to the military or to the police if you have received extortion letters from the rebels so we could validate these. Who knows, other unscrupulous persons may be pretending to be rebels to rip you off,” said Dulotan.
Giving money to rebels could be interpreted as supporting their cause, said Chief Superintendent John Bulalacao, regional police director, in a recent interview.
The regional police office would seek the disqualification of candidates paying so-called revolutionary and campaign fees, added Bulalacao.
“Public office is a public trust. Criminals and their cohorts have no right to public office,” he stressed.
Data from the 61IB showed that of the 105 rebel-threatened barangays in the region, Iloilo province had the most number at 64, followed by Capiz (37), Antique (three), and Aklan (one).
In Iloilo province, the towns of Leon and Calinog had the most number of NPA-threatened villages at 18 and 17, respectively.
On the other hand, the 3ID classified 12 barangays in the region as “influenced” by the rebels and eight “less influenced.”
Lieutenant Colonel Ericson Rosana, another civil military officer of the 3ID, said, “We will not allow communist terrorists to sabotage and destroy our people’s peaceful exercise of their right to suffrage.”
He then warned candidates against paying so-called “permit to campaign” fees.
It is a form of cheating, said Rosana.
“The Army in Panay Island will strengthen and focus its operations in the hinterlands,” he added.
“Marami tayong naka-deploy na sundalo sa mga areas na may reported presence of the NPA at may mga bago tayong recruits na sundalo,” said Rosana.
Meanwhile, Bulalacao urged the public to “report to us politicians and candidates betraying our country so that this early they may be disqualified from running.”
“We should not support rebels because they are considered criminals and enemies of the state,” he said./PN