EXTORTION PLOY. Datu Rico Maca, the Indigenous People Mandatory Representative of San Miguel, Surigao del Sur, believes that the New People's Army's “show of force” staged on Thursday, Feb. 10, 2022 in Cortes town was a reminder to politicians to pay their “permit to campaign and permit to win” to the rebels. Maca urged politicians, political parties, and businesses in Surigao del Sur not to give in to the extortion demands of the rebels. (Photo grabbed from Rico Hayahay Maca FB Page)

BUTUAN CITY – The New People’s Army’s (NPA) blocking off a section of the highway in Cortes, Surigao del Sur was an extortion ploy to remind candidates running in the upcoming polls of their presence in the area, an indigenous community leader said Friday.

Datu Rico Maca, the Indigenous People Mandatory Representative of San Miguel, Surigao del Sur, said Thursday’s “show of force” staged by the NPA in Cortes town was aimed to prompt local politicians to pay the “permit to campaign and permit to win.”

“Extortion is the primary reason for that show staged by the NPA rebels. They are reminding the politicians that they are still around and that they will pursue with their extortion activities as the campaign starts and the election is nearing,” Maca told Philippine News Agency on Friday.

An undetermined number of NPA rebels blocked a portion of the national highway Thursday morning in Sitio Lucbon, Barangay Mabahin of Cortes town where they flagged down and threatened motorists.

A residence of a retired Army officer in the area was also ransacked by the rebels.

“The ransacking of houses was only secondary. The NPA rebels were really reminding the politicians, and even threatening them, to pay permits for campaigns,” Maca said.

The IP leader urged the candidates and political parties not to give in to the threats and demands of the rebels.

“If you will pay, then you are contributing to the useless cause of these bandits. You are, in a way, taking part to strengthen the terroristic activities of these insurgents. Your payment will further escalate the killings, lootings, human rights violations, and other terroristic activities that the NPA rebels are known for,” Maca said.

The “show of force,” he added, was also directed at companies and business groups in the province.

“They also targeted the businesses here in Surigao del Sur. The show was a direct reminder for them to pay revolutionary taxes,” Maca said.

He also advised the businesses in the area to refrain from giving extortion dues to the rebels.

The Communist Party of the Philippines-NPA is listed as a terrorist organization by the United States, the European Union, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the Philippines.

The National Democratic Front has been formally designated as a terrorist organization by the Anti-Terrorism Council on June 23, 2021, citing it as “an integral and inseparable part” of the CPP-NPA created in April 1973. (PNA)