NPA permit to campaign is extortion: CHR
The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) on Thursday slammed the “Permit-to-Campaign Scheme” being implemented by the Communist New People’s Army (NPA) in areas where they are strong.
“The ‘Permit to Campaign Scheme’ which, in plain language, is a form of extortion being perpetrated by the New People’s Army and other non-state actors, is repugnant in all possible ways to valued human rights principles and standards, not only of candidates and political parties, but of the individual voters as well,” it said.
“This practice arrogates to the requiring group the powers rightfully belonging to the people and lawfully designated authorities. It disregards the rule of law, and scoffs at the principles of free, fair and genuine elections,” said the CHR in a Human Rights advisory. (Click here to read CHR advisory)
The CHR cited in its advisory basic principles on human rights with respect to electoral participation and to suffrage, as enshrined in the Constitution, Supreme Court decisions and human rights instruments, principally, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).
The CHR said that the “state has the primary responsibility of promoting and protecting human rights,” but that non-state actors, such as the NPA and other opposition armed groups, may also be held liable for human rights violations under international law.
“All violators of human rights challenge the human dignity of every human person. This cannot be overemphasized in the instant case. Election is, after all, the concern of everyone – states, individuals and non-state actors,” said the CHR.
CHR chair Leila M.De Lima said: “Many human rights are affected, as they are impaired, by this pervading practice attributed to the NPAs, such as the rights to equality, free expression, freedom of movement and freedom against discrimination.”
The CHR said it felt compelled to issue an advisory to condemn what it said is a recurrent practice by the NPA and other non-state actors, and also to propose a number of recommendations to address the issue.
“This is also our way of educating the public on the ill effects of this practice which should never be countenanced by the candidates, political parties and the authorities. Not only is it an unfair and illegal electoral practice, but it cuts deep into the very essence of free and genuine suffrage,” said De Lima.
The CHR said its recommendations would be addressed to political parties, candidates, the Department of Interior and Local Government and other authorities, such as the Joint Monitoring Committee, as well as to the non-state actors themselves.
The human rights agency asked “political parties, candidates, political groups, media and other concerned citizens to refrain from cooperating with the practice of requiring permits to campaign and other similar limitations to free expression, free assembly and the right to political participation free from intimidation or coercion.”
Communist insurgents in the Philippines are demanding cash from election candidates in exchange for “permit cards” that will allow them to campaign unmolested, the military earlier said.
The military recently captured a bag containing permits allegedly issued by communist rebels to people who had paid them protection money, the military said.
More than 500 signed “permit to campaign cards” were found in the bag of an insurgent, killed in a recent battle in the island of Catanduanes.
The color-coded permits charged local candidates according to the position they were running for with one candidate for congress being charged as much as P2.2 million ($47,500), according to the military.
It did not reveal the name of the candidate.
It was not possible to independently verify the reports.
The military said it was intensifying efforts to stop such extortion in the approach to the May 10 elections when positions from president to village councilor will be up for grabs.
The Communist Party of the Philippines and its guerrilla arm, the NPA, has been waging a campaign in the Philippines since 1969.
The military said in December it had shrunk the territory of the Maoist insurgency, leaving four central islands free of guerrillas for the first time in decades, bringing their numbers down to below 5,000 from a peak of 26,000 in 1987.
In the face of declining overseas support, the insurgents have stepped up their efforts to extort money, usually from rural businesses. With a report from Agence France-Presse