Gov't intel units monitor NPA extortion ahead of COC filing
By Richelyn Gubalani / Philippine News Agency
NICA-12 director Eduardo Marquez (File photo)
GENERAL SANTOS CITY – Government intelligence units in Region 12 (Soccsksargen) are monitoring possible extortion activities by communist terrorist group (CTG) members on local politicians in line with the 2022 elections.
Eduardo Marquez, director of the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency (NICA)-Region 12, said they are coordinating with various security and law enforcement agencies in the region to track any related movements by the New People’s Army (NPA) and its allied groups.
In the past years, he said they monitored offers made to politicians for campaign-related activities even ahead of the official filing of certificates of candidacy (COC).
The Commission on Elections has set the filing of COCs for the May 9, 2022 national and local elections from October 1 to 8.
“We’re monitoring this early to counter any possible movement or activity and also protect our politicians,” he told the Philippine News Agency (PNA) in an interview on Wednesday.
Marquez advised prospective politicians and officials seeking reelection to reject these offers and report them to authorities.
He said giving in to demands for payment of the so-called “permit-to-campaign” and “permit-to-win” fees as well as other arrangements are considered as support to the communist terrorist groups.
“These groups were able to collect significant amounts through extortion activities,” Marquez said.
The Army’s 73rd Infantry Battalion reported in 2018 that NPA rebels extorted around PHP57 million from candidates in Sarangani alone in the previous elections based on documents recovered in previous encounters in the area.
The demanded fees reportedly ranged from PHP3 to PHP5 million for candidates at the municipal level and reportedly even higher for those vying for provincial elective posts.
The "permit-to-campaign" supposedly gives access to politicians to campaign in areas controlled or influenced by the rebels while the "permit-to-win" is for votes from NPA allies and sympathizers in areas covered by its operations.
Marquez assured that the government has enough resources, through the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police, to protect local candidates, especially during the campaign period.
He said NPA units in the region are decimated due to the continuing surrender of their members and sympathizers since 2016 but they could use the coming elections to insist on their relevance.
“But by effectively stopping their extortion or collection activities, they will eventually become irrelevant and turn even weaker,” he said.
The Communist Party of the Philippines -NPA is listed as a terrorist organization by the United States, the European Union, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the Philippines. (PNA)