Villar: Why pay when they’re running with me?
By Michael Lim Ubac
Philippine Daily Inquirer
DAVAO CITY—Why pay them when their friends are with us?
That, in effect, was what the Nacionalista Party (NP) standard-bearer, Sen. Manny Villar, said Tuesday as he denied television reports quoting the military as claiming he was among the politicians who had paid campaign fees to the communist New People’s Army (NPA).
“I haven’t paid any (rebel group),” Villar said at a press conference here. “Why should I still pay when they are already with us—they are our friends.”
Lest he be misconstrued, Villar explained he was referring to his alliance with Bayan Muna Rep. Satur Ocampo and Gabriela Rep. Liza Maza. Both militant party-list lawmakers are running for the Senate as NP guest candidates.
P5-B campaign fees
“Let’s clarify that we are with Bayan Muna or Makabayan (coalition). We are not (allied) with whoever is violating the law—they are not with us,” he said, referring to the NPA rebels.
“Those who are with us belong to the group within the system of government that also fights for human rights and the welfare of the poor,” Villar added.
Citing a report from an academic group, Election Commissioner Rene Sarmiento last week said fees being collected by the NPA this year to allow candidates to campaign unmolested in the rebels’ rural strongholds could amount to between P2 billion and P5 billion.
Villar said the allegation that he was on the list of candidates supposedly paying the NPA for campaign permits was part of a demolition job against him.
“There are many lists that you can see … but I pay no one,” he said.
Villar said that as Election Day approached, “throwing black propaganda … would become heated. It should be expected that many lies will be thrown at you, hoping that the voters will believe them and so shave (your) votes.”
Villar also said that he believed no one among the national candidates was finding it hard to campaign “because, normally, we go to cities.”
“In fairness to all of us, I don’t think there’s any presidential candidate who is having problems about it,” he said.
Senatorial candidate Gilbert Remulla, the NP spokesperson, said the party would never comply with the rebels’ demand.
“Senator Villar has not paid and has no intention of paying a single centavo for any permit-to-campaign from any armed group,” Remulla said.
Form of extortion
The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) has slammed the reported NPA practice.
“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 (the) valued human rights principles and standards, not only of candidates and political parties, but of the individual voters as well,” the CHR said in an advisory.
“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,” it said.
The report quoted by Sarmiento came from the Philippine Institute for Peace, Violence and Terrorism Research (PIPVTR), a group composed of experts and academics studying political violence and terrorism and their implications on the country’s security.
According to the report, communist rebels raised P1.5 billion during the 2004 elections and P2 billion in the 2007 elections from the permit-to-campaign fees.
P2M per political party
The military has lower figures. Its records show that the rebels’ permit-to-campaign collections amounted to P56.7 million and P27.6 million during the 2004 and 2007 elections, respectively.
Maj. Gen. Ruperto Pabustan, commander of the 9th Infantry Division, said that based on the “permit” cards recovered from NPA rebels in Caramoran, Catanduanes, the guerrillas were charging an entire political party about P2 million so they could campaign, especially in upland communities.
The documents show the NPA price for local candidates ranged between P150,000 and P1 million. With a report from Jocelyn R. Uy