What’s the Source of Communist Rebels’ Funds?
While the Aquino government stubbornly yet naively tries to preserve its futile ‘peace talks’ with the communist rebels, many companies and businessmen complain of extortion demands and threats. And while President Aquino fiddles with his reconciliation efforts, a number of soldiers have been murdered by the leftist rebels and other separatist groups.
What an irresponsible regime! There should have been no peace talks with the communist rebels!
It is no secret that the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) employs extortion and threats to finance its revolution to turn this country into a freedom-less, property rights-less socialist slave pen. President Aquino should shun peace talks and do everything under his power to end insurgencies. Peace talks simply strengthen the rebels and other separatist groups. Peace talks give them the legitimacy they’re clamoring for. Peace talks are a threat to other sectors of our society like the mining companies in Mindanao that are being forced to pay P20 million in revolutionary tax per year and telecom companies whose cell sites are targets of bombing and sabotage.
Now it is very important to know the source(s) of CPP-National People’s Army’s (NPA) funds. Here’s a very informative report of the Inquirer:
IN AUGUST 2002, the US Department of State labeled the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and its military wing, the New People’s Army (NPA), a terrorist organization.
According to the 2003 Newsbreak article, “To fund a revolution,” reprinted by the Armed Forces of the Philippines on its website, the terrorist tag put “tremendous pressure” on the organization to generate funds locally.
Annual multimillion-peso funding from foreign leftist groups and other sympathetic organizations and individuals became a trickle. Much of the assistance had come from communist parties in Western Europe, church-based groups in Canada, Norway, and Switzerland, and the Japan Communist Party, the military said.
The terror tag froze CPP leader Jose Ma. Sison’s bank account and hampered the flow of funds from foreign supporters.
Locally, according to the military, the CPP-NPA’s main fund-raising initiative is extortion, with politicians and businesses as targets.
NPA guerrillas demand “revolutionary taxes” from big companies engaged in telecommunications, transportation, mining and
logging. Rebels are said to also seize production equipment and finished products, which they then sell.
Rebels attack and torch assets of uncooperative companies.
Local officials say that during elections, the NPA demands permit-to-campaign or permit-to-win fees, with payments coursed through an ATM bank account or intermediaries. Apart from cash, the NPA also accepts medicine, rice, and even ammunition.
Terror tag lifted
The CPP and NPA deny these claims. Last year, they warned businessmen against yielding to extortion by criminal syndicates using the names of communist guerrillas. They also accused the military and police of being behind the extortion.
The military fired back, saying the CPP-NPA warning showed cracks in the movement as it could be against former comrades who got suspended or separated, but still continued extortion rackets.
The terror tag on the CPP and NPA was lifted by a European court ruling in 2009.
Here’s the the 2003 Newsbreak article entitled “To fund a revolution”:
The communist New People’s Army (NPA) is definitely back in business. This time, however, the rebels are swooping down on the business sector, not just the military. NPA attacks have increased in various parts of the country since last year. The rebels attacked 57 businesses from January to December last year, or a whopping 178 percent increase from the 35 reported incidents the previous year. Commuter bus companies and mobile phone operators are the current favorite targets.
Intelligence analysts of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police view the increasing violent attacks on private businesses as “desperate attempts” by the guerrillas to generate funds to sustain their organization. The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), and its military wing, the NPA, are reportedly in dire straits, a consequence of the US State Department move to label the movement a foreign terrorist organization last August.
The terrorist tag has three immediate effects on the CPP. First, all assets and funds deposited abroad under the name of the CPP and its known leader, Jose Ma. Sison, have been frozen.
Second, stringent security measures, including close scrutiny of fund transfers to suspected communist organizations in the Philippines, have hampered the flow of funds from foreign supporters and sympathizers.
Third, the movement of known personalities with links to the CPP-NPA has been curtailed. The United Kingdom, Australia, Canada and other western European states have also blacklisted the CPP-NPA. Even the Dutch government, which has been playing host to CPP founder Jose Ma. Sison and a number of Filipino Maoist rebels in exile in Utrecht, has imposed similar measures. A senior intelligence official at the Department of National Defense believes that the diplomatic offensive launched by the government to isolate the communist movement and cripple its operations in the Philippines “is starting to bear fruit.”
“Like water flowing from faucets, the communist guerrillas were getting a lot of funds and material support from people and organizations abroad,” said the official. “We already have cut them off from their foreign supporters. We have closed the taps.”
Citing intelligence estimates, the official claimed that the communist guerrillas raise more than 100 million pesos every year from leftist groups and other sympathetic organizations and individuals abroad. A big bulk of these foreign funds comes from legal communist political parties in Western Europe, like Germany, France, the Netherlands, Italy, and even the United Kingdom. Labor and other workers’ parties are regular contributors. Church-based groups in Canada, Norway, and Switzerland have also been tagged as funding sources.
In Asia, the Japan Communist Party has been singled out as one of the regular donors of the communist National Democratic Front.
Authorities say large chunks of these foreign funds go to bank accounts of communist leaders living in exile in Western Europe. The Philippine government is now checking reports that Sison was able to withdraw more than two million euros from his bank account just before Dutch authorities moved to freeze them late last year.
The backlash of the terrorist tag has put tremendous pressure on the guerrillas in the country to generate their own funds locally.
Last year, intelligence estimates showed that the rebels generated 67 million pesos from extortion activities, a 31-percent drop from the previous year’s 98-million-peso collection.
Since 1999, rebel taxation has been in steady decline, authorities say. The 67-million-peso collection for 2002 was at least 37 percent lower than the 108 million pesos generated in 1999. But the rising violent attacks on businesses in the last two years could well be a part of the rebels’ ploy to force businesses to cough up more money. Unfortunately for the victims, the damage to their businesses has been more costly than the amount of “revolutionary taxes” demanded by the rebels.
According to the military, 279.2 million pesos worth of equipment and property was lost last year due to rebel attacks. These included the burning of commuter buses, toppling of mobile phone relay towers, and similar destructive activities on mining, logging, and agricultural estates. The military believes that the NPA stepped up its attacks because local units have been generating less and less funds from their tactical areas of operation. In 1999, the CPP introduced a new fund-sharing scheme among national, regional, and front organizations. A significant amount of money collected by various NPA units is now funneled directly to the National Central Fund of the CPP-NPA.
The fund is managed by the National Finance Commission (NFC) headed by Wilma Austria-Tiamzon, wife of the CPP chief, Benito Tiamzon. She is believed to be assisted by seven other women, known to be spouses of other ranking CPP-NPA leaders who belong to the central committee, the political bureau, and the elite executive committee.
The NFC provides general orientation, direction, and perspective of the CPP-NPA’s financial activities; oversees and coordinates fundraising activities; and makes sure that party funds are used properly and effectively.
According to the military, rebel funds are sourced mainly from party members, mass support, political allies, class enemies and foreign-based supporters. The main mechanism is extortion and the main targets are businesses operating within the rebels’ guerrilla fronts (GFs).
The CPP-NPA claims to have established a total of 128 GFs and 14 other territorial committees divided into the country’s different political regions.
Based on documents seized by the military, the rate of revolutionary taxes are as follows:
· Three to five percent of the total cost per project for foreign-owned firms engaged in reclamation activities, implementation of foreign- and locally-funded projects, extraction of landfill materials, quarrying and mining.
· One to three percent of the total cost per project of Filipino-owned firms that provide construction service and landfill materials.
· One percent of the price per cubic meter of landfill materials extracted.
· Three to five percent of the total harvest for fishpond/fishpen operations or one to three percent of the total income.
In cases where income is not easy to determine, the rebels settle for production equipment, bulldozers, dump trucks, quarry materials, heads of cattle or the company’s payroll. The rebels also seize equipment and finished products, which they sell.
Permit to campaign
No one is exempt from paying revolutionary taxes. Even local politicians, small business operators, and ordinary workers pay up. Apart from cash, the rebels ask for guns, ammunitions, communications equipment, medicines, food, and other supplies.
Elections are also lucrative fundraisers for the NPA. Politicians are known to pay fees so they can be granted a “permit to campaign” in rebel areas.
Politicians often pay in cash, but medicines, rice, and even guns and bullets are acceptable forms of payment. Intelligence authorities say the rebels raised 50 million pesos from local candidates in the May 2001 elections.
Based on captured rebel documents, the military says the rebels impose a uniform rate on campaigning politicians:
· Mayor (small towns) _ two M-16 rifles or 50,000 pesos.
· Mayor (big towns) – four M-16 rifles or 100,000 pesos
· Congressmen – eight M16 rifles or 200,000 pesos.
· Governor – 300,000 pesos.
· Senator – 500,000 to one million pesos.
Once elected, some local officials are forced to allocate funds from their own Internal Revenue Allotment to support the NPA. Others are coerced to channel development assistance and other social projects to communities influenced and controlled by the rebels.
Extortion demands are normally relayed to “prospective targets” through letters. Threats are usually made to make the rebels more persuasive. Subsequent letters instruct the targets how to remit the money as well as observe security protocols to facilitate the pay-off.
The rebels use “trusted couriers” in sending the extortion letters. When targets want to bargain, negotiations are done discreetly and usually in rebel-influenced areas. In extreme cases, rebels tap local officials or members of the clergy to act as mediators during negotiations. In Mindanao, particularly in South Cotabato and Saranggani provinces, rebels use high school students as couriers and tax collectors.
According to the military, Davao-based rebels are the most efficient tax collectors, generating a total of 23.08 million pesos last year.
Rebels in Southern Tagalog rank second, collecting 22.29 million pesos for the same period. Central Luzon came in a poor third, with a total collection of 7.62 million pesos last year. All “revolutionary taxes” are remitted to the central fund of the NFC. A certain percentage is retained by the collecting units to fund the movement’s priorities, like guns and ammunitions, medicines, food, and administrative expenses.
The rebels spend for social and economic projects such as communal farms and cooperatives, medical and health expenses, literacy and education programs, cultural activities and programs and mass movement, and agrarian reform.
Special funds are allocated to support the needs of families of senior CPP-NPA cadres, like food and medical expenses. A certain percentage is sent to exiled communist leaders in Europe. Communist guerrillas used to enjoy large remittances from traditional foreign and domestic allies and supporters. But times have changed.
The collapse of the communist regimes in eastern Europe and in the former Union of Soviet Socialist Republics as well as the internal struggles within the local communist movement weakened the rebels.
In 1996, the rebels had just a little over 6,000 regulars. Its tax collection was at an all-time low of 12 million pesos in 1997.
Distracted By Mindanao
But the rebels regained strength when former president Joseph Estrada was elected into office in May 1998. A year after Estrada’s assumption to office, the rebels’ collection shot up to over 100 million pesos-from only 16 million pesos in 1998. In that same year, the rebels’ manpower almost doubled to close to 12,000 regulars.
The government neglected the communist front because Estrada was busy fighting both the separatist Moro Islamic Liberation Front and the Abu Sayyaf Group in Mindanao.
This is the same situation that the current government is faced with now. And the communist guerrillas, again, have been taking advantage of their opportunities.
Early this month, communist rebels burned three commuter buses in Cebu province because the owners of the bus company refused to pay at least 50,000 pesos a month in taxes.
Last month, workers from a mining firm in Mindanao were killed in ambush after their Canada-based mother company rejected the rebels’ demands.
Defense officials say the big challenge to the government is how to provide adequate security to businesses and communities that resist the rebels’ taxation scheme-and persuade those who pay that it’s not worth it in the end.