Monday, March 8, 2010

Philippines Expects Record Highs in Extortion

The Philippine military said Sunday that it expected Communist insurgents to collect a record amount of extortion money from businesses and politicians before national elections scheduled for May 10.

In a report released to journalists, the military said that it had identified a tactic of the insurgents in which they extort “revolutionary taxes” from businesses and collect fees from politicians in exchange for access to insurgent-controlled areas.

The commander of the armed forces’ civil relations service, Brig. Gen. Francisco N. Cruz Jr., said in the report that the Communists had even collected “permit to win” fees in exchange for a promise of victory by a candidate. He said those who refused to pay were punished.

In the report, General Cruz asked residents to report extortion and harassment to law enforcement, adding that paying the New People’s Army, the armed wing of the Communist Party, would only embolden the rebels.

According to the military report, the New People’s Army started collecting “revolutionary taxes” from politicians in the 1992 elections. This year, according to officials, the Communists stand to make at least 5 billion pesos, or about $108 million.

The Philippine Commission on Elections had estimated earlier that the Communists collected a total of 3.5 billion pesos in the 2004 and 2007 elections. Rene Sarmiento, a commissioner, said the extortion “could threaten the existence of democracy.”

To read more: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/08/world/asia/08phils.html?ref=asia

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