MANILA — A prominent leftist labor leader was kidnaped, tortured and murdered Thursday, less than 48 hours after he called on the 800,000 members of his union to defend President Corazon Aquino's government against a threatened military coup.
Leaders of leftist political parties blamed the slaying of the labor leader, Rolando Olalia, 50, on military supporters of Defense Minister Juan Ponce Enrile, whose men are reported to be planning a coup.
Olalia's driver, Leonor Alay-ay, was also kidnaped and murdered. Their bodies, bearing multiple stab and bullet wounds, were discovered two miles apart near a highway in suburban Manila.
To protest the slayings, the leftist political leaders said they will mobilize tens of thousands of peasants and laborers today in the streets outside Camp Aguinaldo, the military base where Enrile's office is located.
Warn of Bloodshed
The leftist leaders also warned that the killing of Olalia, who was president of both the radical labor alliance known as the May 1st Movement and of the Partido ng Bayan, or People's Party, could trigger widespread bloodshed in a country that in recent weeks has become polarized between left and right.
"This is a declaration of war," said Leandro Alejandro, leader of the largest faction in Olalia's party, which claims more than 2 million members.
Alejandro blamed the killings on the military "or a hit squad authorized by the military." He told reporters at the funeral parlor where Olalia's mutilated body was taken that "they have gone as high as they could in the progressive labor movement."
Aquino today condemned the killing as a "ruthless" act and appealed to the nation for calm. She formed a high-level military and civilian committee to conduct a "relentless" investigation into the brutal slaying of a man she compared to her own husband, who was assassinated in August, 1983.
"Every resource and power of my government will be brought to bear in bringing the perpetrators of Olalia's murder to justice," the president declared in a prepared statement at noon today. "We shall pursue this investigation wherever it leads and mete out swift and unequivocal justice.
"Whatever the cost in political terms of a relentless investigation, I do not care," she said. "I want to see justice done."
Yet, she cautioned the left against a violent reaction. "First the truth and then the action. . . . Trust this government to bring justice."
Members of the Olalia family, like Alejandro, also blamed the military for the killings. His 27-year-old son appeared on television and appealed to Aquino to see that the killers are brought to justice.
The military denied involvement in Olalia's killing, and a spokesman said it is under investigation.
Only an hour before Olalia's body was found, Aquino returned to the Philippines from a four-day visit to Japan. In a nationally televised address, she criticized several government officials who remained at home for undermining her mission to Japan and showing a "reckless disregard for our image"--an apparent reference to Defense Minister Enrile.
"The members of my Cabinet are supposed to help me, not make my task even harder than it already is," she said.
Over the last few days, reliable military sources have confirmed that Enrile's followers were plotting a military coup.
Enrile, who for months has been challenging the Aquino government, has made no public statement this week. But on more than a dozen recent occasions he has charged publicly that Olalia's labor organization is little more than a front for the Communists.
Enrile has been pressuring Aquino to take a harder line against Communist insurgents, and he has singled out Olalia's union, which has carried out hundreds of strikes since last February, as a force threatening government stability.
According to members of Olalia's family and police investigators, Olalia was last seen as he left a labor meeting Wednesday night. His body was found 24 hours later. He had been shot twice in the body and four times in the head, and stabbed repeatedly. His hands were tied and a newspaper had been stuffed in his mouth.
Two days before his death, at a press conference, Olalia and several other People's Party leaders called for a nationwide strike and protest action to support Aquino in the event of an attempt by Enrile's supporters to undertake a coup while she was out of the country.
At another press conference, before Olalia's body was found Thursday, Olalia's wife appealed to the military to help her find her husband. The party general secretary, Alan Jazmines, said that Olalia's disappearance was the work either of "ultra-rightists and fascist elements spearheaded by Enrile's group" or of supporters of the deposed President Ferdinand E. Marcos.
In an interview Thursday night, Jazmines said the killing was part of a larger pattern.