The government offered yesterday protection to victims of atrocities and harassment from the New People’s Army (NPA) and their front party-list organizations to encourage them to come out and testify against these leftist groups. The same protection was offered to families of these victims.
National Security Adviser Norberto Gonzales admitted the move was part of efforts to wipe out the communist insurgency and to disqualify leftist party list organizations from joining Congress and denying them the opportunity of using public funds to support the NPA.
“There are many victims of atrocities of the NPA and harassment from these leftist party-list groups but they are afraid to come out because they’re afraid of reprisals,” Gonzales told The STAR, referring to Bayan Muna and Anakpawis. “But it is the responsibility of government to protect these people and prosecute those who (committed) these crimes.”
He issued this statement as two widows of former communist rebels who were killed by their ex-comrades filed a petition with the Commission on Elections (Comelec) on Friday seeking the disqualification of leftist party-list groups Bayan Muna, Gabriela, and Anakpawis from the May elections.
The two widows, who said they were rebel returnees themselves, stressed that filing the petition was part of their quest for justice for their husbands, whose deaths they believed was staged by the NPA.
Also last week, President Arroyo reminded the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to protect ordinary people and businesses from the NPA’s reported extortion activities, which are expected to intensify as the May 14 senatorial and local elections approach.
“We have to protect the people from the extortion by the NPA. So whether they’re extorting from business or they’re extorting from politicians, the victims have to be protected,” Mrs. Arroyo told reporters.
The NPA rebels, who have been waging a communist insurgency for over three decades, have reportedly intensified their “revolutionary taxation,” which the government said is a euphemism for extortion, including exacting “permit-to-campaign fees” during elections to help leftist party-list groups secure seats in Congress.
Gonzales said he would have wanted the authorities to move for the disqualification of party-list groups acting as fronts of the NPA and the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), but the law requires that only the aggrieved parties can file such petitions.
“It was good that some people had the courage to come out and speak out against atrocities and murders of the CPP-NPA,” he said.
He also expressed optimism that the move of these widows will prosper, noting the Comelec can disqualify candidates for the simple violations of rules governing the posting of campaign materials.
Gonzales reiterated his call for leftist groups to reject the use of violence and arms and “truly enter the democratic process as other groups have done, like Akbayan.”
He said Akbayan, a leftist party-list group in Congress, has been very critical of government but has never resorted to violence, as it prefers intellectual debates on pressing issues.
“If these groups like Bayan Muna and Anakpawis continue to take advantage of the loopholes in democracy and government, then the people must be warned,” he said.
He said party-list organizations allied with the NPA have been using pork barrel funds to assist in their insurgency and are using government facilities to recruit potential rebels.
Gonzales said the people must be aware that no less than the United States and the European Union have declared the CPP and the NPA as foreign terrorist organizations. — Paolo Romero, The Philippine STAR