Quezon bets turn to Army for protection
LUCENA CITY—Several local candidates in Quezon province have turned to the military for protection as they continue to receive demands from communist rebels asking them to pay permit to campaign (PTC) fees in guerrilla-controlled areas, an Army official said.
“We are now receiving queries from some candidates on how we can protect them during the campaign. They don’t want to pay PTC fees anymore,” said Brig. Gen. Rhoderick Parayno, commander of the Army’s 201st Infantry Brigade based in Calauag town.
Parayno said they expected more politicians to seek their help in the run-up to the start of the campaign period on March 25.
The military’s information was confirmed by two local candidates in the Bondoc Peninsula (third congressional district) and Lamon Bay (fourth congressional district) areas. These candidates had paid PTC fees to members of the New People’s Army (NPA) in previous elections.
“I’ve already received a demand letter asking me to pay. But I’m not sure if I’m dealing with a real NPA emissary. Besides, my fund is too tight; I will not pay them this time,” said one of the politicians who asked not to be named for security reason.
The candidates said they have no idea what kind of security measures they will get from the police and military during the campaign.
“I don’t want to jeopardize the safety of my campaign workers. They are also afraid that they would be caught in the crossfire,” said the other candidate.
Parayno clarified the military would not give candidates individual security escorts. Soldiers, he said, would only clear the campaign site of any threat from communist rebels or other armed groups.
“The general guidance is we won’t be acting as bodyguards or personal security [aides]. But if our assessment [shows] there is clearly a threat, we can coordinate with the police and be ready… just in case,” he said.
Lt. Col. Angelo Guzman, spokesperson of the military’s Southern Luzon Command (Solcom), said some politicians in Occidental Mindoro and Camarines Norte provinces have approached military officials to arrange security measures during the campaign.
Guzman said the Bicol candidates sought their help as they cited how the security arrangement provided by government forces to public works projects in the area worked.
Lt. Gen. Ricardo Visaya, Solcom commander, reiterated his call to all candidates not to give in to the rebels’ demand.
“There is no more reason to be afraid of the NPA,” he said in an earlier interview.
Parayno reminded candidates who would pay PTC fees that NPA rebels would return to ask for more concessions once they win.
“It is a continuous cycle of extortion,” he said.
In past elections, rebels sought from candidates not only cash but goods like rice, other foodstuff, medicine, communication equipment and even mobile phone load credits, military and local officials said. Delfin T. Mallari Jr., Inquirer Southern Luzon
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