By Chito Chavez
The Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) confirmed that local and national political aspirants paid at least P200 million protection money to extorting communist rebels during the 2016 elections.
DILG Assistant Secretary and spokesman Jonathan Malaya said the figure is merely a “conservative” estimate on the amount of extortion money the New People’s Army (NPA) collected supposedly for “permits to campaign” and “permits to win”.
These fees imposed by the NPA were forcibly collected from the candidates for trouble-free campaign activities.
The practice is particularly rampant in the Bicol region, but has also been observed in the Ilocos region, Southern Tagalog, Eastern Visayas, Northern Mindanao, and the Davao region, he said.
Malaya revealed that local political aspirants shell out hundreds of thousands of pesos while candidates for national elective positions pay millions to the rebel armed groups.
Even without any confirmation, Malaya said intelligence reports pointed to the direction that communist rebels demand presidential aspirants to pay P20 million and vice-presidential candidates P10 million.
DILG Secretary Eduardo Año has already directed the Philippine National Police (PNP) to monitor and undertake case buildup this election season specifically on the 349 politicians in the department’s watch-list who support the NPA.
Earlier, Año revealed the list included 11 governors, five vice governors, 10 provincial board members, 55 mayors, 21 vice mayors, and 41 councilors.
There are also 126 barangay captains, 50 barangay councilors and eight other barangay officials.
The DILG chief called on the public anew not to vote for politicians and party-list groups with NPA links.
However, Año admitted there remains no airtight information that will necessitate the filing of appropriate charges against these officials with NPA connections.
Año warned the erring politicians that their identities are already confirmed by the DILG reminding them their support to the NPA makes them accomplices to terrorism as they are now considered enemy of the state.
The DILG noted that these officials were confirmed to have paid protection fees to the NPA to allow them to conduct smooth campaign activities in the rebel infested areas.