'Plot' to disrupt polls alarms Duterte
By Kristina Maralitand Francis Earl Cueto / The Manila Times
PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte is concerned over what he claims is a plot by communist sympathizers and a political group to disrupt the May elections.
The President said he received intelligence reports that the insurgents and the group, which he identified only as "dilawan" or the "yellows," are closely following developments leading to the elections.
"They are watching for that kind of situation. They might be... Iyon ang sinabi ko na puwedeng manggulo kasi (that's what I said that they may start chaos because) they have these working relations now with the dilawan and the election is the objective really," Duterte said in a televised one-on-one with Pastor Apollo Quiboloy over the weekend.
The President has said he has "reservations" about endorsing presidential candidates, particularly someone "influenced" by communist ideology.
Vice President Maria Leonor "Leni" Robredo, who is running for president, is being backed by the Makabayan bloc, tagged by military officials as a front for the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP).
Robredo has been the target of text blasts implicating her association with CPP founder Jose Maria "Joma" Sison.
The texts insinuate that Robredo has agreed to form a coalition government with the CPP, its armed wing the New People's Army (NPA), and the National Democratic Front (NDF) should she win.
Robredo's rival, Sen. Panfilo "Ping" Lacson, has also warned about the possible "communist infiltration" of her campaign.
The vice president has denied the allegations.
This is not the first time Robredo and her camp have been accused of forging ties with the Left.
In 2018, National Security Adviser Secretary Hermogenes Esperon Jr. revealed what he said was a communist-led conspiracy to overthrow the Duterte administration.
Esperon said the Liberal Party, chaired by Robredo, may have "wittingly or unwittingly" placed itself in the middle because of its affiliation with Tindig Pilipinas, a cause-oriented group that has repeatedly called for an end to human rights abuses by the Duterte administration.
Philippine National Police chief Gen. Dionardo Bernardo Carlos said he will comply with the President's directive to look into reports that communists have infiltrated the Robredo campaign.
Last week, Lacson said personalities from communist fronts were present during the rally of Robredo and her running mate, Francis "Kiko" Pangilinan, in General Trias, Cavite, which organizers said drew a crowd of 47,000.
On Sunday, Robredo denounced fake-news peddlers who were behind the text blasts.
Her spokesman, Barry Gutierrez, said in a statement the "blatant and persistent" red-tagging of Robredo is a sign that her rivals are resorting to fear-mongering to dampen the energy of her campaign.
Lacson said in a statement the information he got from intelligence sources dovetailed with the claims of Jeffrey "Ka Eric" Celiz, who admitted to be a former NPA cadre.
Celiz, who has been disowned by the NPA, confirmed that members of the CPP and its fronts were at the General Trias rally.
In a press conference in Parañaque City, Lacson said he is not sure if Robredo is aware that her camp has been infiltrated by communist groups.
Robredo said in her Facebook she will never support armed conflict to solve the country's problems.
The text blasts quoted Robredo as saying that Sison deserved to be called a hero and that he will be able to come home from his exile abroad if she becomes president.
Another text alleged that the CPP and the NPA support Robredo's presidential bid.
In a recent tweet, however, Sison hailed labor leader Leodegario "Ka Leody" de Guzman as a "principled and courageous political leader" and the "best" among the presidential candidates.
On Monday, National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict spokesman Lorraine Marie Badoy echoed the claim that Robredo's camp has struck a deal with communist groups.
Robredo "should stop insulting the intelligence of the Filipino people by pretending they have not made a pact with the devil, the communist terrorist CPP-NPA-NDF," Badoy said in a statement.
She said Sison's official endorsement of the vice president on Twitter "is proof positive that this marriage made in the bowels of hell has been consummated." Badoy further said Robredo "shares the stage with CPP-NPA-NDF operative Neri Colmenares" and that CPP officials were at the General Trias rally. She mentioned "former Kabataan representative Raymond "Mong" Palatino, now head of the Regional Party Committee of the CPP Metro Manila Regional Party Committee; Obet de Castro, National United Front Committee of the CPP and urban infiltrator of the Movement Against Tyranny; Axel Pinpin of the Regional Urban Party Committee using the mask of KMP/Anakpawis Coordinator" as among those who helped mobilized the crowds for the rally.