Rebels seize rice meant for voters



DIGOS CITY—The communist New People’s Army (NPA) on Sunday announced that it had confiscated nearly 100 sacks of rice from suspected political operators of local candidates during the past three weeks as part of its stepped-up campaign against vote-buying in the May 13 polls.

“This is for the protection of the masses from the onslaught of reactionary politicking and coercion,” Isabel Fermiza, spokesperson of the NPA’s Mt. Apo subregional command, said in a statement sent to the Inquirer.

The seizures, she said, did not mean that the rebel group was participating in the elections, adding that the NPA has always detested dirty politics and the use of “coercive vote-buying.”

Fermiza said politicians who sought NPA help to campaign freely in its areas had been warned against vote-buying, but some bent on winning were paying off voters.

In several towns in North Cotabato, Fermiza said, sacks of rice intended for voters had been seized.

On April 13, guerrillas took 43 sacks of rice meant for Barangay  (village) Balite, and seven more for Barangay Amabel, both in Magpet town. On April 27, they seized 19 sacks in the villages of Kisante, Biangan and Batasan, all in Makilala town, while on April 29, they confiscated 10 sacks in Barangay Noa, also in Magpet.

Twenty more sacks were seized from men working for politicians in the villages of Cabalantian and Binuongan in Arakan town on May 2, Fermiza said.

The total number of confiscated sacks of rice was 98, Fermiza said.

The rebel leader accused some politicians of “hoarding precious rice” needed during the recent drought and bringing it out “when it is time to pursue votes.”

“These acts add insult to injury, especially as the masses of North Cotabato are reeling from extreme hunger and poverty,” she said.—Kaiza Marie Nawal

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