Mon, Jan 25, 2010 - Page 5 News List

Philippines accuses Maoist rebels of massive extortion

AP , MANILA

Communist guerrillas in the Philippines have collected more than 1 billion pesos (US$22 million) through extortion in the past 13 years and plan to squeeze more money from candidates ahead of general elections this spring, the military said yesterday.

Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo has ordered the 120,000-strong Philippine military to defeat the 40-year-old Maoist insurgency by the end of her term in June.

Filipinos will vote for a new president, senators, congressmen and thousands of officials down to the village level on May 10. Past elections have been marred by bloodshed and fraud.

Documents seized from captured guerrillas show they plan to extort money and firearms from candidates in exchange for protection from rebel attacks, as well as help in gaining support in the countryside, military civil relations service commander Brigadier General Francisco Cruz said in a statement.

He said such demands are preposterous because the rebels do not control any territory or voters.

Candidates should immediately report any extortion demands from the 5,000-strong New People’s Army rebels because giving them funds or guns would bolster the movement, Cruz said.

“This is their moneymaking season,” he said. “Extortion is what’s keeping them alive, not their ideology.”

Maoist guerrillas have also attempted to extort money from a company contracted by the elections commission to supply automated voting machines nationwide, Cruz said.

Efforts to reach the rebels for comment were unsuccessful.

Since 1996, the rebels have extorted more than 1 billion pesos from construction, mining, telecommunications, transportation and logging companies, as well as from farmers, Cruz said.

Refusing to pay up can expose companies to rebel attacks, he said. Earlier this month, guerrillas destroyed banana saplings and a backhoe on a foreign-owned plantation in southern Surigao del Sur province after the company refused to yield to rebel extortion, he said.

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