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Reject NPA extortion, bets told

The military on Monday urged candidates in the 2013 election to reject the “permit to campaign” being imposed by the New People’s Army in exchange for money in order for them to solicit votes in areas where the rebels claimed to exert influence over the electorate. The National Police, meanwhile, issued an order for regional officers to keep a watchful eye as the election campaign sets in. Director General Alan Purisima told local police to be wary of the 15 high-risk areas where election violence could erupt. Colonel Arnulfo Marcelo Burgos Jr., spokesman of the Armed Forces, said that the military has monitored certain areas in Northern Luzon where the rebels were distributing PTCs to local candidates. For local candidates, PTCs range from P100,000 to P300,000, according to Lieutenant General Anthony Alcantara, Nolcom commander. The rebels’ asking price varies from position a certain candidate is aspiring but it could amount to millions of pesos if a candidate vies for national elective position such as congressman and senator. Alcantara said that several candidates have been notified of the NPA issuance of PTCs. He said that they have intensified intelligence operations to thwart the NPA’s extortion activities. He declined to identify the areas where rebels were distributing PTC in order not to jeopardize ongoing operations. Burgos said the military is all set for the conduct of the May elections. “All systems go. The Joint Peace and Security Coordinating Council is ready and security counter-measures are already in place. We have directed our commanders to be proactive and conduct security patrols,” he said. He said the military is helping the National Police to trace, identify and conduct arrest of suspected members of private armed groups hired by politicians. “As usual, we provide operational support to the PNP such as checkpoints and operations to arrest suspected criminal elements in line with the gun ban policy of the Commission on Elections,” he said. The military and police have been conducting periodic security assessment since the Comelec started enforcing the gun ban on January 13, he said. Purisima’s order centered on the 15 provinces considered as high risk areas based on deep-rooted intense political rivalry and presence of numerous private armed groups. Interior and Local Government Secretary Mar Roxas recently declared as high-risk the provinces of Abra, Pangasinan, Ilocos Sur, La Union, Cagayan Valley, Pampanga, Nueva Ecija, Batangas, Cavite, Masbate, Samar, Misamis occidental, Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur and Basilan. Purisima and Roxas formulated a mechanism dubbed as Secure and Fair Elections 2013 to promote peace and orderly elections in May by creating special task forces. Roxas revealed the existence of 60 active Private Armed Groups operating, while another 47 potential PAGs are intensively being monitored, a vital factor contributory to the conduct of political violence. With F. Tuyay
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