Philippines: December 30, 2003


The government is launching a campaign to stop communist NPA (New People's Army) rebels from extorting money from political candidates during election campaigns. In many parts of the northern Philippines, NPA demands up to $18,000 per candidate for a guarantee of no violence from NPA while campaigning in areas where NPA rebels are active. The government campaign is based on the fact that so many people now have cell phones and use text messaging. This allows people to quickly, and anonymously, report the NPA extortion attempt, and give the police a better opportunity to catch the NPA members. A similar campaign was successful in the south against an Abu Sayyaf kidnapping campaign.

The NPA extortion campaign is another example of a comeback by NPA. After internal battles in the 1980s reduced armed strength from 25,000 to less than a third of that. NPA began moving from cities to the countryside and established control of many rural areas. The NPA maintained itself through extortion, kidnapping and protection rackets against businesses. In effect, NPA became a huge criminal organization masquerading as a political party and revolutionary movement. With about 10,000 armed members, NPA has a huge payroll (even if many gunmen make a hundred dollars or so a month). The widespread corruption among Filipino government officials makes more honest NPA administration tolerable in the countryside. Until the government can provide a better alternative, NPA will continue to survive. 



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