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Villagers' Fears Grow as Death Follows Voting

February 24, 1986|MARK FINEMAN | Times Staff Writer

DIFFUN, Philippines — On a desolate mountain trail about two hours' walk from this remote village, Marilyn Sanggawa, 15, and two 11-year-old girlfriends may have paid the price for the way their village voted in the Feb. 7 presidential election.

The girls were attacked on their way to school, 48 hours after their tiny barrio of Baguio Villages, which lies in the heart of what is known as Marcos Country 200 miles north of Manila, voted overwhelmingly against President Ferdinand E. Marcos.

Villagers found the girls with their necks broken. Marilyn Sanggawa had been stabbed seven times in the chest, and a "Marcos for President" bumper sticker had been pasted across her midriff. Beside her was a note: "This is what you get when you vote against the KBL"--Marcos' party, the New Society Movement.

The three girls had not voted, but their fathers had. Calixto Sanggawa, 34, had been the opposition poll watcher in Baguio Villages, and the fathers of the two other girls had campaigned for Marcos' rival, Corazon Aquino, in the area around Diffun, long a ruling party stronghold.

It was largely through the three men's efforts that the village recorded a 256-to-38 victory for Aquino in a province that, according to official tallies, went for Marcos by a 6-to-1 landslide margin.

Local priests and political leaders blame a local "death squad" for the killing of the men's daughters.

Before the election, one priest said, there was hope in Diffun for a change--"deliverance from a feudal system of control that is just like the Middle Ages."

"These men in the remote villages took risks in this election," he said. "Now they are paying the price."

Not Only in One Town

Now, there is only fear in the town of Diffun and throughout the province of Quirino. The killing of the three girls was not an isolated incident.

At least 10 local opposition leaders or members of their families have been slain in this small, remote province in central Luzon. Bodies have been found hanging from bridges, along roads, in caves. In some cases, the feet of the victims were bound; in others, the bodies were so bullet-riddled as to be barely recognizable.

A dozen local leaders are missing, and hundreds of people who voted for Aquino have fled the province.

Quirino, which is run by a retired colonel described as one of Marcos' most loyal supporters, offers an extreme example of the alleged revenge killings that the police and Aquino aides say have swept the Philippines since the election.

Nationwide, according to the Aquino opposition, more than three dozen of the local leaders have been killed, and dozens more are missing and feared dead.

Fruits of Victory

All this activity, they said, is attributable to death squads seeking to punish Aquino's supporters for her strong showing and to shore up support for Marcos in the wake of an election characterized by widespread fraud.

There have been few arrests in connection with the slayings. But military investigators say that in the Quirino killings, there is a common denominator--the victims were all identified with the opposition.

"Forget election day," a parish priest said, asking not to be identified by name because, he said, his name already appears on a death list. "That was peaceful here in Quirino. It is only after the election that we are all so afraid. It is now that the real killing has begun."

While opposition leaders concede that the postelection carnage in Quirino may be the worst in the country, what is taking place here reflects the divisions and fears in Philippine society that have been exacerbated by an election that both sides claim they won.

Poor, Isolated Area

Carved out of a larger province 14 years ago as a tactical move to help put down a burgeoning Communist insurgency, Quirino is still among the most backward of the Philippines' 73 provinces.

There are few doctors, no telephones, little irrigation here. Outside of Diffun, the main village, most of the people are impoverished farmers. In the most remote barrios such as Baguio Villages, there are no schools and no hospitals. Malaria is endemic.

Quirino is the unchallenged domain of Orlando Dulay, a retired colonel who served with the U.S. Special Forces in Vietnam and later created the first Philippine special forces units. These troops took on a Muslim insurgency in the south and fought the first major battles with the Communist New People's Army, which now numbers 15,000 and is active in all the provinces.

Dulay retired from the military in 1980, when he was elected provincial governor. In 1984 he was elected to the National Assembly, and he is the province's sole representative in the national government.

A Private Force

His opponents charge that Dulay maintains a private army, retains a military mind-set and has exercised iron-fisted control over his constituents since he was appointed military commander of the province when Marcos declared martial law in 1972.

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