MANILA — The Philippine government said substantial progress was made today in peace talks with Communist rebels. Officials on both sides said an announcement of an agreement was imminent.
"(The negotiators) seem to be rejoicing," a source close to the negotiators said. "It looks like they've got a cease-fire."
But government negotiator Teofisto Guingona, asked if an agreement had been completed, said: "No, not yet. We have to iron out some questions."
Another government negotiator, Ramon Mitra, said the teams made "substantial progress" in eight hours of talks today but that "mechanical things" such as phrasing of the accord had yet to be worked out before an agreement could be signed.
Negotiators for President Corazon Aquino's government and the Communists have met intermittently since August. On Sunday, after the military foiled a coup inspired in part by opposition to her peace policies, Aquino set a deadline of Nov. 30 for a truce to be reached.
Today's meeting was the first between the two sides since the National Democratic Front suspended talks two weeks ago. The front said then that it felt unsafe after the murder of leftist labor leader Rolando Olalia.
Leftists blamed the murder on Defense Minister Juan Ponce Enrile, who has criticized Aquino as not being tough enough against the rebels. Aquino fired Enrile on Sunday after the coup was foiled.
Presidential spokesman Teodoro Benigno disclosed today that the coup plotters may have planned to assassinate Aquino.
Benigno told the Associated Press that Aquino had received word an attempt might be made on her life as she prepared to leave for Japan on Nov. 10. No attempt was made, and Aquino went ahead with her four-day trip.
The Philippines Tribune, quoting unidentified "unimpeachable palace sources," said Aquino decided to dismiss the Cabinet only after learning of plans to assassinate her as she left for Japan.
"The plan was to shoot Mrs. Aquino from a helicopter flying overheard as she presided over the airport (departure) rites," the newspaper said.
Days before the trip, Manila newspapers reported that a coup was being plotted by dissatisfied elements of the military. They later credited armed forces chief of staff Gen. Fidel V. Ramos with foiling the plot.