MANILA — Philippine President Corazon Aquino on Wednesday condemned "the totalitarian left and the fascist right" for the recent spate of killings, kidnapings and bombings that have plagued her nation.
She warned her countrymen that such violence will succeed in destabilizing her eight-month-old government if they give in to fear.
"Forewarned is forearmed," the president declared in her biweekly "dialogue with the people" on government television. "But there is a point beyond which speculating about what evil others can do begins to serve their purpose. Giving their threats currency creates an image of instability that drives away investments, which is what they want."
Aquino issued her warning after a day in which the terrorist violence continued unabated.
Department Store Bombed
Several hours before she spoke, a bomb exploded on the ground floor of the crowded, three-story SM Shoemart department store in downtown Manila. At least 21 people, including a pregnant woman and a 5-year-old boy, were injured, according to police and hospital sources.
No one immediately claimed responsibility for the bombing, the seventh in the Philippine capital and the second to hit the SM Shoemart chain in a month. Twenty-three people were injured in the previous SM Shoemart bombing.
Maj. Pacifico Villarino, chief of Manila police intelligence, said the bomb--dynamite connected to a timer--was planted in a handbag. "It could be part of a campaign to create chaos," Villarino said.
Earlier, a wealthy politician closely allied with Aquino's defense minister, Juan Ponce Enrile, was ambushed and shot to death while riding in a car in a province adjacent to Manila.
Military authorities in Bulacan province said they suspected Communist guerrillas in the gangland-style attack that left David Puzon, 65, his driver and bodyguard dead and Puzon's daughter-in-law seriously wounded just after dawn Wednesday. The car was sprayed with gunfire.
Puzon's family and aides to Enrile said they do not believe that the killing was linked to the murder last week of militant labor organizer Rolando Olalia--a crime that many leftist leaders had blamed on Enrile's supporters.
Enrile, who has denied that charge, remained silent about his friend's killing after attending a weekly Cabinet meeting Wednesday in which he was seen smiling and joking several times with Aquino. The two leaders have been increasingly estranged from each other in the eight months since they led the Roman Catholic Church-backed military coup that overthrew Ferdinand E. Marcos.
Family sources, however, said Puzon has been adamantly resisting efforts by the Communist New People's Army to extort $40,000 a month from his profitable logging and fishing concerns in recent months. He was a rich and powerful political boss whose tough treatment of the Communist rebels and his personal enemies through the years ago earned him the title "warlord."
Lt. Col. Leandro Mendoza, the military commander of Bulacan province, said he believes that Puzon's murder was tied to the rebels' recent offensive to gain a strategic foothold in the province--both to secure a gateway to Manila and to build their war chest by "taxing" the profitable fishing and logging operations there.
Aquino's military chief of staff, Gen. Fidel V. Ramos, confirmed the theory. Late Wednesday, Ramos deployed an additional combat battalion in the region, where he last week launched a military counteroffensive that has led to charges of torture and other human rights abuses by the army.
Military sources said Puzon's killing is likely to intensify the military's operations in the province abutting Manila and complement a general hardening of Aquino's stand against the Communists. On Wednesday, she said that if the rebels do not agree to a cease-fire by Nov. 31, she will unleash the military nationwide.
"I believe really the time has come to do battle," the president said in her television appearance, adding that she has delayed such offensives because "I have to be very sure that when I do battle, I am going to win."
Provincial commander Mendoza also all but ruled out a link between the right-wing politician's killing--committed in the classic style of a guerrilla liquidation squad--and that of Olalia, who was abducted, tortured and shot six times in a killing that resembled those of provincial, right-wing death squads.
"We are not ruling anything out," Mendoza said, but he added that the killing did not appear to be revenge for Olalia's murder. Rather, he said, it was consistent with "a continued escalation" of New People's Army assaults in his region, where two local police chiefs were similarly ambushed and killed by known armed units of guerrillas about the same time Puzon was killed Wednesday morning.