Fri, Jun 23, 2006 - Page 5 News List

Philippine authorities launch crackdown on Maoists

AFP , MANILA

Philippine communities which harbor Maoist insurgents and businesses that submit to guerrilla extortion face criminal charges as part of a crackdown against the rebellion, officials said yesterday.

President Gloria Arroyo's chief aide warned local officials and families against giving sanctuary to the Communist Party of the Philippines and its 7,400-member New People's Army which has been waging a 37-year guerrilla campaign.

"Anyone who abets the insurgency, anyone who gives comfort to the enemy will be within the ambit of the counter-insurgency operations," Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita told reporters.

The NPA rebels "live off the land and they depend on the assistance provided to them by their coddlers on the ground. So we have to address these particular coddlers," he said.

Companies that paid "revolutionary taxes" could be charged even if rebels armed with guns forced their staff to hand over the money.

"Because they are giving aid and comfort to the enemy, they will be appropriately charged," he said.

Officials say the insurgency's operational funds are raised mainly through extortion of businesses and politicians. Those who refuse to pay often find their buildings attacked and equipment burned. Rebels also sometimes resort to murder, they say.

Arroyo meanwhile said sizeable military units would be detailed to guard business in rebel-influenced areas to help them resist guerrilla extortion.

"In my provincial visits I have heard a lot about revolutionary taxation. Many businessmen are complaining that they don't want to pay but they have no other choice," she said in send-off remarks to three army battalions that have been pulled out of the southern Philippines.

The 1,500 soldiers would redeploy in the provinces south of Manila, one of three key areas that would be the focus of stepped up military operations and development aid over the next two years.

"We will deploy battalions and companies in areas that are heavily taxed by the rebels," Arroyo told the troops.

Ermita said the rebels hold sway in a number of villages "where our social workers, our health workers, our department of agriculture people cannot even enter."

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