WARNING TO NPA-SUPPORTERS. Lt. Col. Joel Benedict Batara, commander of the 61st Infantry Battalion (IB) of the Philippine Army (PA), warns on Thursday (May 30, 2019) that charges can be filed against elected officials who continue to support the New People's Army. He said 15 out of the 37 politicians, who were monitored to back the NPAs, secured government posts in the recent May 13 elections. (File photo)
Newly-elected government officials who continue to support the New People's Army can be charged with financing terrorism, the top official of the 61st Infantry Battalion (61IB) of the Philippine Army (PA) warned on Thursday.
Lt. Col. Joel Benedict Batara, 61IB commander, said they monitored 37 politicians, who ran for the mid-term polls and were also backing the NPA.
Fifteen of these officials were elected as either mayors or Sangguniang Bayan members in the provinces of Iloilo and Capiz.
He added that 15 is still a "running number" because there were additional elected officials suspected to be supporting the rebels, based on the reports of other government agencies.
"For the past months, there were candidates consistently monitored to have been giving support to the NPA, including some candidates who gave in on the rebels' 'permit' to win and 'permit' to campaign (fees)," Batara said in a phone interview.
The communist rebels demanded money from the candidates for them to enter and campaign freely in a certain area.
"We continue our monitoring on these officials and if we have concrete pieces of evidence, there would be appropriate cases to be filed against them," Batara said.
Violations of Republic Act 10168 or the Terrorism Financing Prevention and Suppression Act of 2012 can be filed against these officials, he said.
Furthermore, Batara said the local government units (LGUs), particularly the local chief executives, should spearhead the efforts to end the insurgency in the country.
He appreciated the move of the Iloilo City Police Office (ICPO) in submitting a letter to the Sangguniang Panglungsod and recommending the declaration of the NPA as persona non-grata.
"It is included in our line of efforts, our line of actions. We also encourage other LGUs to do the same," he said, adding that the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) had been incessantly urging the declaration of NPAs as persona non-grata in all municipalities nationwide.
Declaring the NPA as persona non-grata means "containing the rebels in other definite areas," he said. "It means they are not welcome in a certain place. NPA (rebels) are mobile and can go anywhere even in the city," he added.
“But the best way that we see is all municipalities and the entire province of Iloilo will also push for declaring the rebels as persona non-grata because it connotes unity, that we are solid in our stand against the rebels,” he said.
The United States and European Union governments have labeled the NPA, and its political body, the Communist Party of the Philippines, as an international terror organization.