Comelec, military urged to stop extortion by communist rebels

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02:37 PM March 19th, 2013

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March 19th, 2013 02:37 PM

SURIGAO CITY, Philippines—The Liberal Party is urging the Commission on Elections and the Armed Forces of the Philippines to stop communist rebels from harassing and extorting money from candidates for local government office in one of the poorest regions in Mindanao.

Senator and LP vice chair Franklin Drilon said: “We are getting reports here in Caraga that demands for (payments for) permit to campaign is quite rampant especially on mayors who are forced to contribute from P800,000 to P1 million just to campaign,” said Sen. Franklin Drilon, LP vice chairman. “This is saddening. This should not be happening.”

Drilon claimed that the permits were being given free access to areas infested with rebels.

“With P1 million, you can probably go to the mountains and campaign there; they will not burn your streamers and posters and they will not disrupt your rallies,” said Drilon.

Drilon said candidates should not give in to the extortion because “there will be no end to this.”

“This is affecting our allies and I suppose others too.  We will bring the Comelec and Armed Forces to address this situation, which has been going on for a long time,” Drilon added.

Instead of “sowing fear and coercing candidates” Drilon said members of the Communist Party of the Philippines, the New People’s Army and the National Democratic Front should participate in the electoral process just as their affiliates in the Makabayan bloc did in 2010 when former Representatives Satur Ocampo of Bayan Muna and Liza Masa of Gabriela ran for the Senate. Bayan Muna Rep. Teodoro Casiño is currently running as an independent in the May elections.

Drilon was in Surigao del Norte Tuesday for a two-city visit to the Caraga region, specifically Surigao City and Butuan, by Team PNoy senatorial candidates.

Caraga or Region XIII is composed of Agusan del Norte, Agusan del Sur, Surigao del Norte, Surigao del Sur and Dinagat Islands. The Caraga regional director of the Philippine National Police, Chief Supt. Reynaldo S. Rafal, claimed that the NPA was raking in millions in pesos annually  from its collection of “revolutionary taxes” on logging and mining companies in the region.

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