Reports of extortion and kidnapping of civilians by the New People's Army (NPA) or other armed groups; state response to extortion and kidnapping; extent of recruitment efforts by the NPA (2003 - 2006) [PHL101566.E]

Extortion and kidnapping efforts by the New People's Army

Reports of extortion by the New People's Army (NPA), the military arm of the Communist Party, were numerous among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate for the period 2004 to 2006 (AFP 9 May 2006; Manila Standard 23 Nov. 2005; The Manila Times 26 Feb. 2006; Reuters 27 Mar. 2004; Sun.Star 27 June 2006). The Age newspaper reports that the NPA has been "transformed into an enterprise more concerned with lucrative extortion rackets ... than in pressing for social change and a better life for the poor" (8 Feb. 2003). The Philippine government considers the NPA to be a group of extortionists thwarting rural development (Reuters 27 Mar. 2004; see also BBC 10 Feb. 2004) or "bandits" (JFKSWCS 1 Sept. 2004). The United States (US) government, on the other hand, has labelled the group a "terrorist organization" (Reuters 27 Mar. 2004). Rebels of the NPA, however, argue that their designation as a terrorist group has hampered their ability to obtain foreign funds and has forced them to rely more heavily on extortion activities in the Philippines (US n.d.). According to Rodolfo Salas, a former leader in the Philippine communist movement, the NPA is being transformed into a terrorist group and a "criminal syndicate" (The Age 8 Feb. 2003).

According to the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), the main activity of the NPA is to collect operational funds through "revolutionary taxes" (BBC 10 Feb. 2004). These taxes are reportedly collected from large and small businesses and local officials or politicians (AFP 22 June 2006; Sun.Star 27 June 2006; Manila Standard 23 Nov. 2005; see also MIPT 31 May 2006). While some pay the taxes without question, the majority of people are reportedly reluctant to do so (Sun.Star 27 June 2006). In February 2004, the NPA began to demand a 20 percent share of the barangay (village) Internal Revenue Allotment (IRA) in Masbate (The Philippine Star 25 Feb. 2004). The Philippine National Police (PNP) reported that the son of one barangay leader in Masbate was killed after both the leader and his son rejected the NPA demands for money (ibid.). Two mayors in Agusan del Sur were said to have received death threats after refusing to pay "revolutionary taxes" to the NPA (Sun.Star 27 June 2006). However, according to an article in The Manila Times, records from the Philippine military reportedly show that a small percentage of barangay leaders in Bicol are sympathizers of the rebel movement and, according to one villager, some barangay leaders collect the taxes on behalf of the NPA (26 Feb. 2006).

During elections, politicians have been targeted for payment of "permit to campaign" fees in areas controlled by the NPA (Reuters 27 Mar. 2004; Rosales 17 Jan. 2004; The Philippine Star 25 Feb. 2004; AFP 11 Jan. 2004). In 2004, congressional candidates were required to pay 500,000 pesos [approximately CAD 11,373 ( 16 Oct. 2006a)] in order to have access to NPA-controlled areas, while the fee for mayoral candidates was 50,000 pesos (AFP 11 Jan. 2004). Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported that candidates who did not pay the fee had been "ambushed" by NPA rebels (ibid.). One member of Congress who had refused to pay the campaign fee was attacked along with his bodyguards by members of the NPA in the province of Sorsogon (ibid.).

A 2004 report by Loretta Ann Rosales, the Chair of the House Committee on Civil, Political and Human Rights in the Philippines, explains that campaign fees are also extended to businesses, which are required by the NPA to pay for "permits to construct" or "permits to operate" (Rosales 17 Jan. 2004). Businesses such as telecommunications and transportation firms are frequent targets of the NPA (Sun.Star 27 June 2006; AFP 9 May 2006). In 2005, 30 telecommunications towers owned by Globe Telecom Inc. were sabotaged by the NPA in an effort to force the company to pay "revolutionary taxes" (ibid.; see also ibid. 14 Nov. 2005). During one week in 2004, three buses in the city of Canlaon in Negros Occidental were set on fire reportedly by the NPA (Rosales 17 Jan. 2004). According to the National Memorial Institute for the Prevention of Terrorism (MIPT), while both foreign and local businesses have been targeted by the NPA, the rebels aim to push all foreign investors out of the Philippines, largely by extorting money from foreign businesses through intimidation (MIPT 31 May 2006).

The NPA guerrillas also demand money from villagers who say they fear for their safety if they do not pay the taxes (The Manila Times 26 Feb. 2006; Sun.Star 27 June 2006). In the villages in Bicol, the piso-piso tax system imposed by the NPA forces locals to pay one peso daily for each family member (The Manila Times 26 Feb. 2006). In 2005, the NPA demanded a percentage of annual earnings from business owners and farmers in the province of Isabela in order to fund festivities to mark the 37th anniversary of the Communist Party (Manila Standard 23 Nov. 2005). According to the Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC), a US government inter-departmental information service, the NPA is most active in the rural areas, particularly in Luzon, Visayas and parts of Mindanao, but also operates active cells in large urban areas such as Manila (US n.d.). According to Philippine military estimates cited in a Reuters article, the NPA collects 300 million pesos [approximately CAD 6.8 million ( 16 Oct. 2006b) a year (Reuters 27 Mar. 2004).

In early 2006, AFP reported that the kidnapping of civilians was a relatively new tactic of the NPA (6 Feb. 2006). However, three years earlier, The Age had reported on the kidnapping of a Japanese businessman by the NPA (8 Feb. 2003). The Manila Times indicated that four people, including three civilians, had been abducted by the NPA in separate incidents in Mindanao in February 2006 (1 Feb. 2006). Later that same month, AFP reported that a town mayor in Mindanao had been kidnapped by NPA rebels and used as a shield during a raid on a police station (6 Feb. 2006). In the latter incident, NPA rebels seized assault rifles from the station and said they later released the mayor, a claim the Philippine military could not confirm (AFP 6 Feb. 2006). Other kidnappings reported by AFP included the abduction of three people in the south, for whom the NPA demanded weapons as ransom, and the kidnapping of a high-ranking military official in July 2005 who was released in early 2006 (ibid.).

Reports of extortion and kidnapping of civilians by other armed groups

Reports of extortion and kidnapping of civilians by other armed groups other than the NPA were scarce among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate. The militant Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) was linked to the bombing of a grocery shop on the island of Jolo in 2006 in which nine people were killed and which, according to local police, was likely in retaliation for the failure of the owners to pay extortion money (Global Insight Daily Analysis 28 Mar. 2006). Global Insight Daily reported that the ASG may be resorting to NPA-like extortion in order to replenish its funds (ibid.). Special Warfare, the news bulletin of the John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School (JFKSWCS), stated that the organization has "become an extortion and kidnap-for-ransom gang" (1 Sept. 2004). The JFKSWCS also reported that ASG has been known to kidnap foreigners for ransom (1 Sept. 2004; see also BusinessWorld 4 Jan. 2005). In 2004, seventeen ASG members were sentenced to death for their roles in the kidnapping of hospital workers in Basilan three years earlier, the first mass conviction of its kind in the history of the ASG (The Philippine Star 14 Aug. 2004).

In 2004, Philippine President Gloria Arroyo announced that kidnappings were at a record low throughout the country as a result of an intensified police effort (AFP 7 June 2004). In 2006, however, the Philippine Daily Inquirer reported that the risk analysis group Pacific Strategies and Assessments (PSA) had declared the Philippines a "kidnapping hotspot" (17 Mar. 2006). According to security analysts with PSA, the total number of kidnappings each year is likely three times the official figure and they estimate that every three days a person is kidnapped in the Philippines (Philippine Daily Inquirer 17 Mar. 2006). In 2003, kidnapping gangs targeting Chinese-Filipino businessmen and their families in Manila and surrounding suburbs became the focus of a government crackdown against kidnapping (BusinessWorld 4 Jan. 2005). These gangs included the Pentagon gang, a gang which has abducted wealthy businessmen and foreigners (DPA 28 June 2004).

State response to extortion and kidnapping

The Philippine Daily Inquirer, citing PSA's 2006 report, stated that corruption within the police forces and weak enforcement of the law were contributing to the problem of kidnapping in the Philippines (17 Mar. 2006). In the article, PSA explained that the police were "'both part of the problem and solution'," (Philippine Daily Inquirer 17 Mar. 2006). PSA also alleged that officers of the PNP have continued to collude with kidnapping gangs in Manila despite police force efforts to crack down on kidnappers (ibid.). The PNP, however, argued that it had had some success in curbing the number of kidnappings in recent years (ibid.). AFP reported that an anti-kidnapping task force set up in 2003 had, according to President Arroyo, killed or arrested a number of kidnappers (AFP 7 June 2004). In late 2003, the president reinstated the death penalty for kidnapping offences after a four-year moratorium, reportedly amid public pressure and in an attempt to discourage kidnappers (ibid.). In 2006, however, media reports indicated that both the House of Representatives and the Senate had approved a bill to abolish capital punishment (BusinessWorld 7 June 2006; The Manila Times 8 June 2006).

Following the shooting attack on a Philippine legislator and his bodyguards by rebels of the NPA in early 2004, President Arroyo reportedly ordered the police and military to put an end to the extortion activities of the NPA (AFP 11 Jan. 2004). No reports of the state's response to extortion between 2004 and 2005, however, could be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate. In 2006, media reports indicated that the Philippine military had agreed to provide protection to businesses who had been threatened with extortion by the NPA in Mindanao (Manila Bulletin 9 June 2006) as well as Davao, Conipostela Valley, Bukidnon and Caraga in Bicol (The Manila Times 26 Feb. 2006). While the military did not elaborate on what this protection would entail, it urged businesses to report extortion demands from the NPA (Manila Bulletin 9 June 2006). In June 2006, a top government official reportedly announced that, as part of the effort to bring down the NPA, communities that harbour NPA rebels and businesses that pay "revolutionary taxes" will face criminal charges (AFP 22 June 2006). According to the official, this policy would not exclude businesses that submitted to NPA extortion as a result of threats to their security (AFP 22 June 2006). The government also announced that an additional 1 billion pesos [Approximately CAD 22.7 million ( 16 Oct. 2006c) would be added to the military budget to combat the NPA insurgency (AFP 22 June 2006).

A House Bill introduced in 2005 by Loretta Ann Rosales and other Congress members of the Akbayan party sought to criminalize all solicitations of money "or other valuable consideration" from election candidates in exchange for "permits to campaign" (Philippines 16 May 2005). The Bill was drafted in response to reports that the NPA and its affiliated organizations demanded fees from election candidates who wished to campaign in rebel-controlled areas (ibid.). Information on the status of the Bill as of 10 August 2006 could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate.

Recruitment efforts by the NPA

Information on recruitment efforts by the NPA was scarce among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate. An article in the Philippine newspaper Taliba stated that, according to the Philippine Armed Forces, NPA recruitment peaked in 2005 but dropped off in the first quarter of 2006 as a result of the military's operations against the rebel group (Taliba 20 Apr. 2006). The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), as cited by The Manila Times, estimated that between 20 and 25 percent of new recruits in the NPA were under the age of 18 while according to the Philippine military, between 13 and 18 percent of NPA rebels were children (2 June 2006). In January 2003, a news article reported that the NPA denied that it was recruiting children en masse, stating that children could willingly join the group but were restricted to non-combat activities such as running errands (Philippine Daily Inquirer 30 Oct. 2005). Government sources reportedly stated that, while some children might enlist in the NPA at their own will, there were indications that some minors were abducted or forced to join the group (ibid.). In a 2004 statement carried by BusinessWorld, the Communist Party announced its plans to increase recruitment into its armed wing by the "thousands" in anticipation of future attacks against the Philippine military (30 Mar. 2004). Estimates of the number of NPA members range from 7,400 to 9,000 (BBC 10 Feb. 2004; US n.d.; AFP 6 Feb. 2006; ibid. 22 June 2006). However, the MIPT Web site indicated a 16,000-strong NPA on 31 May 2006.

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim for refugee protection. Please find below the list of additional sources consulted in researching this Information Request.


The Age [Melbourne]. 8 February 2003. Mark Baker. "Shots and Sushi as Old Scores Settled." [Accessed 27 July 2006]

Agence France-Presse (AFP). 22 June 2006. "Philippines to Charge Communist Rebel Supporters." (Factiva)

_____. 9 May 2006. "Philippines Rebels Shoot Up Telecoms Tower in Extortion Attempt." (Factiva)

_____. 6 February 2006. "Philippine Rebels Kidnap Mayor, Raid Police Station." (Factiva)

_____. 14 November 2005. "Communist Guerrillas Attack Philippines Cellphone Site." (Factiva)

_____. 7 June 2004. "Kidnapping Down to All-Time Low in Philippines: President." (Dialog)

_____. 11 January 2004. "Two Wounded as Communist Rebels Attack Philippine Congressman." (Dialog)

British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC). 10 February 2004. "Philippines Peace Talks Resume." [Accessed 24 July 2006]

BusinessWorld [Philippines]. 7 June 2006. Francis Y. Capistrano and Paul C.H. How. "Lawmakers Junk Death Penalty." (Factiva)

_____. 4 January 2005. AFP with Karl Lester M. Yap. "Kidnappings Fall to Lowest Level in Over a Decade." (Factiva)

_____. 30 March 2004. Karl Lester M. Yap and AFP. "NPA Marks 35th Year with Attacks." (Factiva)

Deutsche Press-Agentur (DPA). 28 June 2004. "Kidnappers Free Abducted Engineers in Southern Philippines." (Dialog)

Global Insight Daily Analysis. 28 March 2006. Lee Peart. "Jolo Bombing Blamed on Extortionists in Philippines." (Factiva)

John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School (JFKSWCS). 1 September 2004. Vol. 17, No. 1. C.H. Briscoe and Dennis J. Downey. "Multiple Insurgent Groups Complicate Philippine Security." Special Warfare. (Factiva)

Manila Bulletin. 9 June 2006. Mike U. Crismundo. "Resist NPA Tax, AFP Tells Mindanao Traders." (Factiva)

Manila Standard. 23 November 2005. "Nolcom Chief Sees Red over NPA Extortion in Isabela." (Factiva)

The Manila Times. 8 June 2006. Sam Mediavilla and Maricel V. Cruz. "GMA Thanks House, Senate for Scrapping the Death Penalty Law." (Factiva)

_____. 2 June 2006. Jonathan Vicente. "Child Warrior No More - PFC Jelyn Dayong." (Factiva)

_____. 26 February 2006. Rhaydz B. Barcia. "AFP Vows to Fight 'Piso-Piso' Taxation." (Factiva)

_____. 1 February 2006. "NPA Rebels Kidnap Four in Mindanao." (Factiva)

National Memorial Institute for the Prevention of Terrorism (MIPT). 31 May 2006. Terrorism Knowledge Base. "New People's Army (NPA)." [Accessed 27 July 2006]

Philippine Daily Inquirer. 17 March 2006. "RP is Asia's Kidnapping Hot Spot, Says Think Tank." (Factiva)

_____. 30 October 2005. Rolando B. Pinsoy. "Minors Fighting for the NPA and MILF." (Factiva)

The Philippine Star. 14 August 2004. "Philippine Court Sentences 17 Kidnap Group Members to Death." (BBC International Reports/Factiva)

_____. 25 February 2004. Christina Mendez. "Communists Extorting Funds from Vilagers in Philippines - Police Chief." (BBC International Reports/Dialog)

Philippines. 16 May 2005. Vol. 53, No. 53. House of Representatives. Committee Affairs Department. "Bill to Ban 'Permit to Campaign' During Elections." Committee News. [Accessed 28 July 2006]

Reuters. 27 March 2004. Stuart Grudgings. "Philippine Rebel Graduates Keep the Red Flag Flying." (Factiva)

Rosales, Loretta Ann. 17 January 2004. Committee on Civil, Political and Human Rights. "Protecting the Integrity of the Electoral Process." (Philippine European Solidarity Centre Website) [Accessed 27 July 2006]

Sun.Star [Davao]. 27 June 2006. "Rebel's Extortion Keeps On: Army." [Accessed 27 July 2006]

Taliba [Manila, in Tagalog]. 20 April 2006. Zaida delos Reyes. "NPA Weakened, JI Silent - AFP [Armed Forces of the Philippines]." (BBC Monitoring Asia Pacific/Factiva)

United States. N.d. Department of State, Bureau of Diplomatic Security, Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC). "Communist Party of Philippines/New People's Army (CPP/NPA)." [Accessed 27 July 2006] 16 October 2006a. "Universal Currency Converter." [Accessed 16 Oct. 2006]

_____. 16 October 2006b. "Universal Currency Converter." [Accessed 16 Oct. 2006]

_____. 16 October 2006c. "Universal Currency Converter." [Accessed 16 Oct. 2006]

Additional Sources Consulted

The Embassy of the Republic of the Philippines in Ottawa did not provide information within the time constraints of this Response.

Internet sites, including: Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, International Crisis Group, Time Asia.