MANILA, January 13, 2004 (STAR) FIRST PERSON By Alex Magno - After months and years of hibernation, the communist New People’s Army (NPA) burst to life the past few days.

Communist guerrillas mounted nearly simultaneous attacks nationwide as soon as the Christmas ceasefire ended. They planted landmines, burned down a cell site and staged ambuscades.

The most serious of these attacks was an attempt to damage the Calaca power plant. Had they managed to overrun the Air Force unit guarding the facility, the communist might have succeeded in throwing Luzon into darkness, damaging the people’s livelihood and creating a condition of extreme anxiety.

The wave of attacks happened on orders of the CPP top leadership based in the Netherlands. The intention is obviously to magnify the communist movement’s political importance in a crucial political season – and on this basis improve their efficacy for fundraising through extortion.

As it happens, the CPP-NPA cynically collects money from politicians every campaign season. They do this by issuing "permits to campaign" and threatening those who refuse to yield to the extortion.

It is a practice that partakes of the most corrupt view of our electoral politics: that people seek public office to enrich themselves by stealing from the public purse.

By extorting from politicians, the communists make corruption inevitable. But they try to alleviate the moral hazard of this activity by guising it as some sort of Robin Hood activity – extorting from the rich in order to feed the poor.

Even that is grossly contrived. The extortion is indiscriminate and harms poor public servants more. The money raised from the extortion is not used it feed the poor. It is used for violent activities that ultimately harm the economic prospects of the nation’s poor.

The communists take an absolutist view. Politicians will steal anyway; and so it is justifiable to extort from them.

This is an absolutist view native to the delusions of Maoist ideology: Reforms within the system are not possible. Reforms are in fact futile. And so a corrupt system must be made even more corrupt until it is pushed to the ledged and a cataclysm happens. That cataclysm is the "people’s revolution."

That is the ideological justification. Behind that fanatical interpretation of things, that fatalistic view of the historical process, operate practical men.

These men know that the local communist movement, running short of funds from the evaporation of international support for an insane revolution, cannot let the opportunity of an election pass by. It is an election where the communists are fielding numerous front organizations for party list representation, thereby increasing their own financial requirements.

The communists are playing this game smartly. They are using their armed capacity as capital to raise funds. They are using their voting clout in areas where such groups as Bayan Muna have a following as a political asset to trade for concessions. The money they raise from extortion activities will be used to finance the campaigns of the party list front organizations. In turn, the party list front organizations will deliver votes for politicians who contribute to the communist coffers.

These guys are wilier than our most jaded traditional politicians. But then they have advantages in the fact that they operate outside the law. They kill and burn ruthlessly. They point guns and plant landmines. They intimidate unrestrained by the conventional rules of the game. They have the largest private army in the arena.

On top of all these, they are now positioning, as they did in 1998, to ride the crest populist whim in order to create greater uncertainty for our national economy and aggravate the weaknesses of our institutions.

The communists are courting the Fernando Poe-Loren Lagarda tandem to mouth their primitive policy prescriptions and pander to the most unenlightened populist whims.

The communist courtship is pursued in earnest. CPP chairman Jose Ma. Sison and NPA spokesman Gregorio Rosal have issued thinly veiled endorsements of the populist duo, exempting them from the "permit to campaign" requirement. The CPP party list front organizations are trying to hitch their campaigns to what they perceive is a popular bandwagon, offering forums to both candidates.

The communists are luring FPJ and Loren to make the routine policy statements against globalization and for an unprincipled government stance on the peace talks in order to score political points. At the same time, they are trying to blackmail the Gloria administration into yielding to their demands for fare increases, wage hikes and price freezes on oil, power and water rates.

The keystone in this opportunistic communist effort is the full deployment of the NPA guerrilla units to have maximum impact on the political terrain.

Everywhere, the communist guerrillas, short on arms and poor in training, are being deployed for a major show of strength. This is not free of risks for the communist movement. They will be taking casualties and courting a military counter-offensive.

This is a mad gamble that could backfire. The communists could take losses that will not be worth whatever extortion money they raise.

Given their unpopularity, the communist endorsement could backfire on the candidates, too. Remember that Jose Ma. Sison’s trust rating is about the same as Osama bin Laden. His endorsement of Loren Legarda – and his minions’ implicit endorsement of FPJ – could prove to be a kiss of death.

The recent attacks horrify the mainstream. They underscore the peril of encouraging the communists to dip their fingers in electoral politics.

Beyond the short-term arithmetic of electoral politics, however, it is the duty of every democrat to ensure that this election is as free as possible from systematic extortion by armed groups. It is the duty of government, regardless of the electoral equation, to quash armed outlaws playing around with the sacredness of our electoral democracy.

If they are committed to electoral democracy, both FPJ and Loren Legarda have a moral obligation to reject playing pawns to communist games. Rather than flirt with the communist front organizations, they ought to take a clear stand against extortion of a large and systematic scale. Rather than allow themselves to be props on communist platforms, they should take a clear and principled stand against leftist opportunism inflicted on our electoral process.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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