Bets hiring ex-rebels as ‘political operators’

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LUCENA CITY—Trained in political organizing, former New People’s Army rebels who have gone back to the mainstream have been tapped by politicians as “operators” to promote their candidacy.

“Former comrades in the Southern Tagalog region have been busy working for different candidates,” a former NPA rebel from Laguna, who requested anonymity for his safety, told the Inquirer.

In many cases, the informant said, former guerrilla comrades found themselves working for opposite candidates.

“But there’s no issue there. They just perform the task as effectively as they can. For them, it’s just work, nothing personal,” he said.

‘Tempting cash’

He said his former comrades were forced to accept the offer to work as “operators” because of tempting cash remuneration and the promise of other benefits if the candidate won.

Such “operators” were also hired in the previous election, according to the source.

“I know that some candidates who won continue to give cash monthly just to maintain the service even if the comrade is not working anymore,” said the informant.

He said the payment from the candidate depended on the length of the service contract, the nature of the work orders, the specialty of the contracted rebel and his “stature” when he was still inside the movement.

“The payment ranges from P20,000 to P50,000 a month. But it could be more. The contract price is fluid. It all depends on the negotiation,” said the informant.

He said that he did not know of any of his former comrades who accepted illegal or criminal work for any candidate.

“For them, the contract is just for election purposes. They help the candidate establish, maintain and solidify his political bailiwicks through mass organizing because that’s the common task they are used to inside the movement,” said the informant.

He added, “In some cases, the comrades also serve as unarmed bodyguards.”

But he admitted that some former comrades who had no bad records with the movement when they stepped out also acted as conduit for paying the so-called “permit to campaign” fee given to the NPA.

“Not all rebel returnees are considered enemy or traitors to the revolution. In some cases, they were allowed to return to their families due to personal compelling reasons so they still maintain good relationship inside,” he explained.

Another former NPA rebel in Quezon also attested to the trend among rebel returnees during election.

He blamed the government rebel returnee program for its failure to sustain the assistance to former communist guerrillas.

“After they (rebel returnee) were presented to the media for propaganda and given a measly cash assistance, that’s it. They were left to their own devices,” he said.

A mayoralty candidate in Quezon confirmed that his fellow politicians enlisted the services of former NPA rebels during the campaign period.

“Election campaign is mostly guerrilla work and that’s where the former rebel comes in. They are well-versed and work best at night. They can easily feel the pulse of the people, which is very important to a candidate,” said the candidate, who also requested anonymity.

He said the services of former NPA rebels were most important during the last days of the campaign. He said most candidates want to sabotage the strongholds of his opponent and persuade voters to switch sides.

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