MANILA — Communist rebels broke off peace talks today after a prominent leftist was murdered, and thousands of people rallied outside military headquarters to denounce Defense Minister Juan Ponce Enrile as responsible for the killing.
President Corazon Aquino, whose husband Benigno was assassinated in 1983, ordered a special commission to investigate the killing of Rolando Olalia. She vowed "swift and unequivocal justice . . . whatever the cost in political terms."
Olalia, 52, was head of the Partido ng Bayan, or People's Party, and the May 1st Movement, a militant trade federation that claims 500,000 members.
He disappeared Wednesday night after attending a union meeting. His body, riddled with bullets and stab wounds, was found Thursday in a ditch off a Manila highway. His driver's body was found about two miles away.
Days earlier, Olalia had said his May 1st Movement would strike if members of the military linked to Enrile tried to take over the government, as widely rumored.
General Strike Slated
The trade federation called a general strike for Monday in Manila to protest his killing, but some labor leaders expressed fears that this would provoke military action.
The National Democratic Front, a Communist-dominated umbrella group that has negotiated with the government on behalf of Communist rebels, refused to attend today's session.
Agriculture Minister Ramon Mitra, a member of the government negotiating team, said the front cited Olalia's murder as part of an alleged "pattern they think could endanger their safety and security."
He said that no new date for talks was set but that the front "stopped short of closing the door to any future negotiations." He said they had been close to reaching a cease-fire agreement as the first step toward ending the Communists' 17-year insurgency.
A statement issued in the name of the rebel New People's Army said evidence indicated that Enrile "and his minions" were responsible for the killing, but it offered no proof. It said Aquino was morally responsible and urged her to fire Enrile.
5,000 Rally in Protest
Enrile has criticized Aquino's peace overtures to the rebels and called for tough counterinsurgency measures.
About 5,000 people, mostly young workers and university students, rallied outside Camp Aguinaldo, headquarters of the Defense Ministry and the military. The crowd waved banners reading, "Justice for Olalia" and chanted, "Enrile resign!"
About 100 helmeted riot police watched but made no attempt to break up the rally. After about three hours, the demonstrators marched to the University of the Philippines campus five miles away for a Mass and prayer vigil.
Aquino attended a wake for Olalia at a university chapel today and spoke there with Olalia's widow, Feliciana.
"At least when she came, I was relieved," Feliciana Olalia said. "I know she feels how we feel. She said she will do everything to seek justice."