Bicol PNP official confirms NPA’s ‘permit-to-campaign’ fee

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LEGAZPI CITY: The communist insurgents operating in Bicol are allegedly imposing a P.5 million “permit-to-campaign fee” to local politicians running in the May 2016 national elections, Chief Supt. Agosto Marquez, PNP regional director in Bicol said.

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“The New People’s Army, whose members are now used as private armed groups, is imposing P500,000 ‘permit-to-campaign’ fee on local politicians running for the congressional post in Bicol,” Marquez said in an interview with DZGB radio station here.

For municipal mayors, the rate required by the communist insurgents ranges from P100,000 to P250,000 depending on the capability of the candidate to pay, he added.

“Unfortunately local candidates who are peace-loving succumb to such extortion activities and they pay ‘permit-to-campaign’ or ‘permit-to-win’ to be able to campaign unhindered,” Marquez said.

Every election season, the communist guerrillas in Bicol impose the mandatory permit-to-campaign on candidates running for various elective positions to be able to campaign throughout the region.

The permit-to-campaign imposed for re-electionists and aspiring politicians from barangay-municipal-congressional to provincial posts generate multi-million funds for the rebel movement, law enforcers in Bicol said.

Marquez’s claim was confirmed by local candidates in Albay. Requesting anonymity, the candidates said they have been receiving words from rebels for them to get permit-to-campaign card from the movement to be able to go unrestrained in their controlled areas across the province.

Meanwhile, Marquez said the PNP in Bicol are up in arms and intensifying their operations to neutralize the private armed group employed as goons during elections.

“Criminal gangs like the Conception Brothers from Libon can be used as private armed group. Another is the New People’s Army. That’s why we are augmenting forces in Bicol, specifically in the island province of Masbate. We will deploy one company of our elite force, the Special Action Force in Masbate, to ensure honest and peaceful election,” he said.

In the 2010 and 2013 elections, the PNP central command deployed the elite forces of the Special Action Force (SAF) in Masbate following the request of PNP Bicol and of the Commission on Election.

Masbate, dubbed as the “wild west country” was placed under Comelec control following intense political rivalry, the presence of private armed groups and communist insurgents, and election violence.

“We have proven, as in the 2010 and 2013 elections that the incidence of violence could be brought down. In the past, violence completely marked Bicol’s elections. We’re hoping that violence will not erupt again this coming election,” Marquez said.

He also asked politicians seeking re-elections and aspiring candidates not to yield to the rebels’ demand.

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