By Alex Magno (The Philippine Star) Updated March 16, 2010 12:00 AM
According to documents captured by the military, the CPP-NPA plans to raise between three to five billion pesos from collecting “permit to campaign” fees from politicians this election season. In which case, the Maoist insurgents aspire to be the single biggest campaign expense this year.
On top of that, they intend to see some of their comrades elected to public posts. From there, they will provide the insurgent movement access to the pork barrel and, I suppose, some of the largesse from corruption.
I have seen some of the documents captured by the Army after a skirmish in Quezon province. It does seem that the communist underground has been kept busy the past few months compiling information on local political factions and gathering intelligence on who can pay how much.
This ambitious Maoist plan to raise funds by inflicting terror on the democratic exercise will likely be the single biggest source of political violence over the next few weeks. One local Lakas candidate in the Bicol region was assassinated by communist gunmen the other week. He will likely not be the last casualty from this obscene fund-raising project.
In order to convince candidates to fork over some money, they will have to show they mean business. That can only be done by shooting down candidates who refuse extortion. We will likely see a lot of Mafia-style roughing up the next few weeks.
In order to appropriately threaten their victims, the communists will have to push their gunmen closer to the population centers. When that happens, encounters with government forces will likely increase. It is the duty of the Army and the police to prevent the communists from freely engaging in their criminal pursuits.
Whatever euphemism the communists use — be it “revolutionary taxation” or “permit to campaign” collection — the activity is plain and simple extortion conducted on a broad and systematic scale. It is criminal extortion that abets what is wrong with our elections and runs counter to whatever pretension that communists hold to bringing reform and equity to our society.
To begin with, this systematic extortion campaign prejudices against the poorer candidates and favors the richer ones. It prejudices against the honest public servants and favors the corrupt. It reinforces electoral politics as merely money politics.
From every angle, it is an anomaly. It is unjust. It is anti-poor. It will only escalate the cycle of corruption and poverty that all the other forces of goodwill in our society are trying to break.
But the deeply rooted subculture of intellectual dishonesty and cynicism that has enveloped the local communist movement will prevent the cadres from realizing this. They will surely be able to contrive some Maoist formulary that will render wholesale extortion an act of virtue.
For this communist project of raising P5 billion from the collection of permit-to-campaign fees, the movement needs to wrap the entire electoral exercise in a climate of fear. The whole strategy is based, after all, on the capacity to intimidate.
It is a multi-pronged campaign of intimidation. First, they must intimidate candidates so that they pay up. Second, they must intimidate their own mass bases so that they vote the way the CPP has sold their votes. Third, they need to intimidate supporters of candidates who have not entered into alliance with them. Fourth, they need to intimidate election watchdogs and people like me so that we do not condemn this syndicated extortion.
We know how the communists play this sophisticated game they have mastered over the years. They strike deals with the most unseemly politicians. They exchange the votes of one barangay they control so that they are delivered to a local political lord in exchange for the votes of one whole town that lord controls delivered to party-lists groups controlled by the CPP. Then, up the ladder, they trade the votes of town they influence to further influence the votes at the provincial level. With the votes of whole provinces they are able to influence, they are now able to influence national-level elections.
This is why they found the gall to field candidates for senator. They think they can manipulate votes on a sufficient scale, through unprincipled trading with old-style politicians, layers of front-organizations and party-list groups along with the systematic use of terror, to get their comrades elected to national office.
Once they have done that, they will try and barter for presumptuous power-sharing arrangements. They tried to do that after Edsa Dos. When their presumptuous entreaties were snubbed, they turned rabidly against the new government.
It is unlikely that the communist movement will benefit from the loot collected through systematic extortion. In one televised discussion, Col. Dan Lucero courageously described the extent of corruption within the communist movement itself. He estimates that only 20% of the loot will actually trickle down to the guerrillas.
Using information provided by former cadres disillusioned with what is happening, Lucero mentions one high-profile guerrilla chieftain in Southern Mindanao named Pitao who, in the course of his career as a “revolutionary” made enough money to begin buying up land in Compostela valley. The high-profile “Ka Roger”, the military found out, makes enough as a “revolutionary” to send his children to exclusive schools properly chauffeured.
The poor guerrillas, who must do the dirty work of extortion and skirmishing with the Army, will not be very happy with information concerning the corrupt practices of those who lead them. The CPP might be mistaken in announcing P5 billion to be raised this campaign. If that money does not trickle down to those who live hard lives in the jungle, there will be trouble within this forsaken movement.
Beware of unintended consequences.