Paying permit to campaign to NPA ground for disqualification – COMELEC

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 6 Jan) – The Commission on Elections (Comelec) in the Davao Region warned candidates of the May 2016 elections that paying permit to campaign (PTC) to the New People’s Army (NPA) can be ground for disqualification if proven true.

During the AFP/PNP press conference on Wednesday at Ritz Hotel, Comelec 11 assistant regional director Marlon Casquejo said that PTC can be considered as a form of cash donations, which are prohibited during the election period from January 10 to June 8, 2016. The gun ban also takes effect during this period.

He clarified, however, that the commission cannot prevent the candidates who they want to support as this is their constitutional right to freedom of expression.

For his part, Maj. Gen. Rafael Valencia, 10th Infantry Division commander, said that the military is not against these candidates supporting the rebels but there should be no monetary support as they are helping the NPA gain strength to fight the soldiers.

As the rebels gain foothold, he warned that the NPA might turn against the candidates from whom they get the money.

Valencia added that what the military can do is to secure the area so that it will be safe for politicians to do the campaign.

He noted that in the region, the area known to have many NPA rebels is the boundary shared by Davao Oriental and Compostela Valley.

Casquejo said anyone, or even personnel from the Armed Forces, can file a disqualification case against a politician who is proven to have paid for PTC.

“They will gain force and kill our soldiers,” he said. “What we don’t want is the use of arms to force the people to vote,” he added.

Recently, Capt. Albert Caber, spokesperson and chief of the Public Information Office (PIO) of the Eastern Mindanao Command (EastMinCom), appealed to the candidates not to give in to the extortion demands of the Communist Party of the Philippines to “be used to sustain the armed struggle through violence and intimidation against innocent civilians and properties.”

In past elections, the NPA, which is the armed wing of the CPP, had demanded “permit to campaign” fees from politicians. The amounts would vary depending on the positions they were running for.

“The CNN’s [referring to the CPP-NPA-NDF] 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.