Interior Secretary Eduardo Año on Thursday said 349 government officials are providing support to the Communist Party of the Philippines and its military arm, the New People’s Army by paying “permit to campaign fees” in areas where the guerrillas are active.
Of the 349 officials, 11 are provincial governors; five are vice governors; 10 are provincial board members; 55 are mayors; 21 are vice mayors and 41 are councilors, Año said.
They also include 11 former local government executives, 10 incumbent congressmen, and a former lawmaker.
“We now have a watchlist, we know you. So if you are supporting communist rebels, in any way, you ascertain yourself as a supporter of terrorism and an enemy of the state, [and] you establish yourself as an accomplice to their cause,” he said.
“We cannot win the war against terrorism if these local officials continue funding the very source of terrorism in the first place,” he added.
Also on the list are 126 barangay captains, 50 barangay councilors, and eight other barangay officials.
“This number is not alarming as compared to the total number of barangays in the country, but it sends a message that extortion starts at the community level, down in the grassroots,” Año said.
“These 349 officials are giving money to the terrorists, which is why they can continue to operate.
Can you just imagine that? Our own government officials giving funds to the enemy,” Año said in a mix of Filipino and English.
DILG spokesman and Assistant Secretary Jonathan E. Malaya said the officials come from different regions of the country, with Region V tallying the most cases, with 154.
“Extortion money comes from everywhere, all across the nation. Whether these officials gave their support voluntarily or involuntarily is immaterial. Politicians and local leaders should shun any connection with these communist rebels. Do not harbor, support terrorists,” Malaya said.
He encouraged local officials to report and work with the Philippine National Police and the Armed Forces of the Philippines if they are being harassed by the rebels.
Año also urged the public not to vote for candidates who support or who have links to communist terrorist groups.
Año said the communist rebels accumulated P195.5 million from their various extortion activities nationwide during the 2016 and 2018 polls.
He said all candidates should stop paying “permit to campaign fees” to the NPA, which collects P300,000 to P650,000 from governors and vice governors and P200,000 to P500,000 from mayors.
Paying the terrorists, he said, was a crime.
“You do not need them to win nor to campaign. What you need is a robust platform and a desire to serve the people within your jurisdiction,” he said.
The Army said the NPA rebels are struggling to recover their former strongholds in Leyte province because of a lack of support.
Of the 1,393 villages in Leyte, only 178 are still affected by operations of the NPA-Leyte front committee. Seventeen had been categorized as influenced, 50 of these are less influenced, and 111 others are considered threatened.
“They are trying to beef up manpower by looking for potential recruits, but they’re not that successful as people report to us their sightings,” said Lt. Col. Roberto Beatisula, commander of the Philippine Army’s 93rd Infantry Battalion, during the provincial peace and order council meeting in Tacloban on Wednesday. With PNA
“They have been striving to conceal their movements in far-flung areas and mountainous areas of the province to avoid confrontation with government forces to preserve their ranks,” Beatisula said.
The NPA in Leyte has 75 active members with 40 classified as political and 35 as armed with light weapons.
Also on Thursday, two NPA rebels were killed in a firefight with soldiers from the 4th Infantry Division in Occidental Mindoro.
The soldiers recovered an M16 rifle, two rifle grenades, three backpacks, bandoleers, medical paraphernalia, and other personal belongings. With PNA