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Philippine Rebels Assail Vote, Vow to Intensify War

May 18, 1987|MARK FINEMAN | Times Staff Writer

MANILA — Communist rebel leaders Sunday condemned last week's congressional election in the Philippines as a carnival that put in office "another lawmaking body of the reactionary ruling classes," and they vowed to redouble their 18-year-old guerrilla insurgency, which has left hundreds dead so far this year.

The rebels conceded that the May 11 balloting, in which at least 20 of President Corazon Aquino's candidates won seats in the new 24-member Senate and dozens of her backers were elected to the 200-member House of Representatives, proved the president's enormous personal popularity.

But they asserted that her showing arose from a popular "illusion" that she can free Filipinos from poverty and predicted that it will backfire if she and the new Congress fail to deal with inequitable land distribution, which they see as this country's basic problem.

This nation's radical left took part in the election last week for the first time since the 1940s, apparently losing most of the contests it entered. In spite of this, the leaders predicted Sunday that Communists will ultimately prevail in the Philippines.

Revolutionary Conditions

One of them, Satur Ocampo, declared: "As long as the fundamentals for making revolution are there--the economic conditions, the frustrations--we still see a wide possibility and a bright perspective for the revolutionary forces to be able to expand in the next years. . . . The National Democratic Front still believes that armed struggle is the only way to bring about change in Philippine society."

Ocampo represented the front, an umbrella organization of the radical left, in negotiations with the government that led to a temporary cease-fire in the guerrilla war earlier this year. He was joined Sunday by Antonio Zumel, another member of the rebel negotiating team, and Carolina Malay, a rebel spokeswoman.

"We just want to reaffirm to those who think this (election) was an alternative to armed struggle that they are wrong," Zumel said.

Ocampo and Zumel, both former journalists who joined the guerrilla fighters several years ago, made their remarks Sunday during a two-hour meeting with reporters in a rural, Communist-controlled location about an hour's drive from here, asking that the site be identified only as "a partisan area outside metropolitan Manila."

The three also issued a written statement containing the front's official reaction to the election, the final official results of which are still being tallied.

Vote 'Raised False Hopes'

The election "raised high but false hopes for change among the people," the statement said, adding that it "was conceived and conducted in such a way as to manipulate and frustrate the people's will for change." The statement also charged that the campaign was "multimillion-peso gimmickry" filled with violence and fraud.

"Dozens of mass leaders were killed," the front asserted. "Institutionalized fraud, mass media blitzes, blatant electioneering by government and church leaders, as well as massive vote buying, effectively assured the victory of candidates with government influence, elite patronage and money."

Several independent Filipino political analysts also have criticized Aquino's administration for running a campaign short on issues and long on Madison Avenue-style advertising. More than half a dozen leftist campaign workers were among the victims of 65 election-related killings during the two-month campaign, and many of the candidates who appear virtually assured of victory on the basis of returns tabulated so far are pro-American and represent old Philippine political families.

But journalists and international observers who witnessed the election have said it was the most peaceful and one of the cleanest in the history of this nation where corruption and killings have been commonplace in past elections.

Must Change the System

"The fraud in the election is not our principal concern," Zumel said Sunday. "Our principal concern is to broadcast to the people the necessity of changing the entire system, breaking down and changing the basic structures of our society.

"You can expect nothing from this legislative body that will involve dismantling any of the institutions of our society, and that includes the U.S. military bases."

Washington's agreement with Manila for Clark Air Base and Subic Bay Naval Base, the two largest U.S. military facilities outside the United States, expires in 1991. The new Senate is empowered to accept or reject any accord allowing the bases to remain here beyond that date.

Aquino's campaign strategists and aides have said that they hope the election, in which a record 90% of eligible voters cast ballots, would be viewed as a serious defeat for the radical left, which backs a 23,000-member guerrilla force, the New People's Army.

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