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NPA starts drive to collect poll fees

LUCENA CITY—Communist rebels have started sending letters to politicians, reminding them of payment of “permit to campaign” (PTC) fees when the election season starts.

“I’m not taking them seriously,” said one incumbent mayor. But another politician seeking to reoccupy his mayoral seat said, “PTC has long been a part of every election. I just want to have a smooth campaign.”

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On Wednesday, the top official of the military’s Southern Luzon Command (Solcom) attributed the harassment of government forces by New People’s Army (NPA) rebels in Southern Tagalog and Bicol regions to their efforts to intimidate politicians into paying the PTC fees.

“The PTC fee collection is automatic for the rebels during election season. But their menacing demand letters are all just empty threats,” Lt. General Ricardo Visaya said in an interview.

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Some politicians in Quezon province, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of rebel reprisal, told the Inquirer that NPA members were already sending feelers through emissaries.

Visaya advised candidates not to give in to the rebels’ demand, assuring them that they can conduct their campaign unmolested.

He said remnants of NPA units in the Bicol region and Quezon had been harassing government forces in the past weeks. “It was all propaganda,” he said.

Maj. Angelo Guzman, Solcom spokesperson, said at least seven rebels and two Army soldiers were killed in recent encounters in Mauban and Atimonan towns in Quezon and in Irosin, Sorsogon province.

Guzman counted at least eight NPA attacks in Sorsogon, two in Albay province and one in Camarines Norte province. These were not meant to really harm but just to create the impression that they are on the offensive, he said.

“They are no longer capable of staging major tactical offensives because they knew that they will all perish,” Visaya said.

He said the NPA still had some degree of influence in the Polillo-Real-Infanta-General Nakar area in northern Quezon and in some areas in the provinces of Sorsogon, Masbate, Oriental Mindoro and Occidental Mindoro.

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