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Army to bets: Beware of fake rebels asking for fees

LUCENA CITY—A Philippine Army official has warned candidates against the proliferation of groups posing as communist rebels and demanding payment of permit-to-campaign (PTC) fees so they will be assured of unmolested campaign activities for the elections this May.

Brig. Gen. Erick Parayno, commander of the Army’s 201st Infantry Brigade in Quezon province, said they received intelligence information that members of these groups were pretending to be New People’s Army (NPA) rebels to extort cash or goods from candidates.

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Even if the PTC fee collectors proved to be real NPA rebels, Parayno said, local candidates should not pay. “Demanding PTC [fees] … is still extortion. If they pay, they’re just helping insurgency in Quezon to recover and derail the peace, development and prosperity now being enjoyed by the people,” he said.

The military and police, he said, were ready to protect all candidates during their campaign activities.

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On Wednesday, a candidate for mayor in a central Quezon town told the Inquirer that he received a phone call from a supposed NPA member asking P2 million as PTC fee.

The candidate said the caller, who introduced himself as an “authorized PTC collector” also demanded a separate P1 million for the relative of the mayoral aspirant who is also running for a local post.

The candidate was undecided whether he would give in to the PTC fee demand. “But first, I want to know if my caller is a legitimate NPA member,” he said.

A former NPA leader in Quezon, who now works in a local government in Bondoc Peninsula, said PTC fee negotiations were normally done in a formal meeting with a candidate and the NPA representative or a trusted emissary of the rebel group.

“If the demand and consequent negotiation are transacted through phone, e-mails or even Facebook, without a personal meeting, it’s a tell-tale sign that the supposed NPA [rebel] is a fake,” said the former rebel, who asked not to be identified for security concerns.

The source, who led NPA guerrillas operating in areas between Quezon and the Bicol region in the late 1970s and early 1980s, said the PTC fee negotiation was a “formal and serious matter” to rebels with the group imposing a policy that a negotiator should strictly follow.

While candidates were left to decide whether to pay the PTC fee, the source did not say what would happen to those who would ignore the group’s demand.

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In an interview before the 2010 elections, Ka Armin de Guia, spokesperson for the NPA’s Apolonio Mendoza Command operating in Quezon, said they would not use mobile phones, e-mails or social media to negotiate payment of PTC fees. Those using this technique, he said, were likely people pretending to be NPA rebels.

At least four candidates in Quezon have revealed that since last month, they were receiving letters or phone calls and text messages, reminding them to pay PTC fees when campaigning in rebel-controlled areas.

They said most politicians in Quezon pay the PTC fees to ensure their safety while on the campaign trail.

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TAGS: campaign, candidate, Communism, communist, Elections, New People's Army, NPA, Permit to Campaign, Rebel
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