THE Philippine National Police (PNP) will be continuing a no let-up crackdown on private armed groups and loose firearms in the country in line with their efforts to ensure that unlicensed guns and PAGs won’t be able to disrupt the holding of peaceful, honest and orderly presidential and national elections in May 2020, PNP chief, General Guillermo Lorenzo T. Eleazar said yesterday.
This early, the top cop said they are already fine-tuning their 2020 poll security preparations with all PNP unit and area commanders under instruction to dismantle PAGs and account for all loose weapons in their areas of responsibility. The PNP is also set to enforce a six-month nationwide gun ban starting January next year.
Gen. Eleazar explained that early security preparations were found to be effective in preventing previous election violence and other activities that could have compromised the integrity of past national and local elections.
“Kasabay ng mainit na usapan sa eleksyon sa susunod na taon, inatasan ko na ang lahat ng ating area commanders na umpisahan na ang paghahanda upang matiyak ang malinis at maayos na halalan sa ating bansa,” the PNP chief said.
“Kasama sa paghahanda na dapat tutukan ng ating mga kapulisan ay ang monitoring at accounting hindi lamang ng mga private armed groups kung hindi pati na rin ang mga loose firearms na maaaring gamitin sa pananakot at pagsabotahe upang impluwensyahan ang resulta ng halalan,” he added.
In line with his directive, members of the PNP intelligence community led by the PNP Intelligence Group (PNP-IG) headed by Colonel Neil B. Alinsañgan and the 17 police regional offices were ordered to closely monitor and conduct a review on the presence of firearms with expired license and other loose firearms in their respective areas of responsibility.
Gen. Eleazar also wants to give focus on the presence of armed groups based on data from previous elections.
The actions are aimed at preventing the possibility that loose firearms and PAGs may be used to commit gun-related violence during the election period.
Gen. Eleazar said they are coordinating their election security measures with the Armed Forces of the Philippines(AFP) specifically in areas with the high presence of armed groups especially the New People’s Army (NPA), the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP).
The PNP and the AFP has accused the CPP-NPA- of extorting huge sum of money in exchange for access in areas where they usually operate. The sum of money is collected from politicians through so-called ‘permit-to-campaign fees’ which also serves as an assurance that candidates will not be harassed by the rebels.
“We have to make sure that they would be denied of this illegal activity so it is really important that we start early to study and anticipate any threat to the elections next year,” said Gen. Eleazar.
The PNP chief also ordered his commanders to help secure the voters registration of the Commission on Elections (Comelec), especially when the poll body announced that it would extend the registration hours to 7 p.m. starting August 23.
Gen. Eleazar has reminded anew politicians gunning for different elective seats in the forthcoming May 2022 elections not to pay so-called ‘Permit-to-Campaign Fees’ usually being demanded from candidates by the CPP/NPA.
“As the national polls draw near, the CPP/NPA is expected to again take advantage of the elections for financial gain through extortion,” the top cop said.
He explained that communist rebels usually profit from the elections by demanding “permit-to-campaign fees” from politicians who plan to run for public office in local or national elections.
Security officials said the CPP/NPA was believed to have amassed nearly P196 million from their so-called ‘extortion’ activities during the 2016 and 2018 elections alone.
The rebels are known for demanding the following amount from candidates planning to campaign in areas where they are known to have a large influence: P300,000-P650,000 for governors and vice-governors; P200,000-P500,000 for mayors; and P50,000-P100,000 for barangay officials.
Those who refuse to heed their extortion demand are subjected to harassments or prevented from campaigning in areas in the countryside where they have a considerable presence.
Security officials said that frequently being targeted for extortion by the leftist rebels are those running for governor, vice-governor, mayor, vice-mayor, board members and even barangay captains.
In February 2019, Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Eduardo M. Año bared a watchlist containing 349 local and national government officials who are allegedly providing support to the CPP/NPA by form of extortion money and ‘permit-to-campaign fees.’
The former Armed Forces chief of staff said that based on intelligence reports received by the DILG, 349 local and national government officials including congressmen, provincial governors and mayors down to the barangay councilors have been identified as sources of financial aid and are tied to the communist rebels.
“We now have a watchlist, we know you. So if you are supporting communist rebels, in any way, you ascertain yourself as a supporter of terrorism and an enemy of the state, you establish yourself as an accomplice to their cause. We cannot win the war against terrorism if these local officials continue funding the very source of terrorism in the first place,” he said then.
The DILG Secretary said that of the 349 officials, there are 11 provincial governors; five vice governors; 10 provincial board members; 55 mayors; 21 vice mayors and 41 councilors.
Also in the list are 126 barangay captains, 50 barangay councilors, and eight other barangay officials.
“This number is not alarming as compared to the total number of barangays in the country, but it sends a message that extortion starts at the community level, down in the grassroots,” Sec. Año said.