DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/30 December) — The Eastern Mindanao Command (EastMinCom) told candidates in the 2016 elections not to give in to “extortion demands” of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) as the money would “be used to sustain armed struggle sustain the armed struggle through violence and intimidation against innocent civilians and properties.”
In an emailed statement, Capt. Alberto Caber, spokesperson of the EastMinCom, said the military condemns the alleged extortion schemes of the rebel group against politicians who go to barangays to campaign.
In past elections, the New People’s Army, armed wing of the CPP, had demanded “permit to campaign” fees from politicians. The amounts would vary depending on the positions they’re running for.
“The CNN’s resorting to armed struggle utilizing threats, intimidation, terror and violence infringes upon the constitutional rights of the people to choose the best leaders who can bring real reforms through good governance,” Caber said.
CNN is the military’s acronym for the CPP-NPA and National Democratic Front.
The election period will start on January 10 and end on June 8, 2016.
Caber said the CNN’s activities are “meant to delimit the candidates’ campaign activities in the countryside.”
The military added the rebels are overstating their capability.
“EastMinCom also noted the hype delivered by NDF-Mindanao when the fact remains clear that for the whole of year 2015 alone, there has been a significant reduction in CNN capability in all parameters,” Caber said.
He said the number of NPA rebels within their area of responsibility decreased by seven percent or 344, including 152 who surrendered this year.
“Also for the same period, the NPA’s high powered firearms were reduced by 148 and there were five guerrilla fronts dismantled. The CNN decline in Eastern Mindanao is evidenced by its simple holding of anniversary celebration,” he said.
Caber was reacting to claims by the NDF that Oplan Bayanihan, the government’s counterinsurgency program, has failed to weaken the armed movement in Mindanao.
In a video message during the 47th anniversary celebration in a village in Kitcharao town in Agusan del Norte, NDF-Mindanao spokesperson Jorge “Ka Oris” Madlos said the NPA has maintained its stronghold in 46 guerrilla fronts in five regions in Mindanao despite intensified attacks by government forces.
He said the NPA launched over 500 tactical offensives against military, paramilitary and police targets in Mindanao in 2015. (Antonio L. Colina IV /MindaNews)