Troops step up monitoring vs. NPA extortion in Sarangani

October 25, 2018, 7:09 pm

GENERAL SANTOS CITY -- Government troops have stepped up their monitoring against possible extortion activities by New People's Army (NPA) units operating in Sarangani Province in the run-up to the 2019 local and national elections.

1Lt. Daryl Cansancio, spokesperson of the Army's 73rd Infantry Battalion, said Thursday they have been closely coordinating with local government officials and political aspirants in the area to thwart the rebels' election-related money-making scheme.

Cansancio cited the so-called "permit-to-campaign" and "permit-to-win" fees previously demanded by the NPA from local politicians.

The "permit-to-campaign" supposedly gives access to politicians to campaign in areas controlled or influenced by the rebels, the Army official said. The "permit-to-win" is for votes from NPA allies and sympathizers in areas covered by its operations, he said.

Citing documents recovered during previous encounters, Cansancio said the rebels were able to extort around PHP57 million from candidates in Sarangani alone in previous elections.

He said demanded fees ranged from PHP3 to PHP5 million for candidates in the municipal level and reportedly even higher for those vying for provincial elective posts.

"Their strategy is shotgun approach, so candidates should expect these extortion demands. There were politicians who actually gave in before and we want to stop that," he said in a radio interview.

In the previous elections, he said rebels sent extortion letters to almost all candidates in the province.

He said there were no extortions letters that circulated in the barangay elections last May but noted demands could have been sent through cellphone text messages.
To counter these moves, Cansancio said they have been building up their presence in areas operated by NPA rebels, specifically those under Front 71 that include the upland villages of Alabel and Malapatan towns.

Cansancio urged politicians to immediately report to proper authorities any extortion demand from the rebels.

"They should not entertain and give in to these demands because they will not stop. Once they win, they will be obliged to give more to the rebels and that will create a bigger problem for them," he added. (PNA)