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Aquino Vows Revenge on Communist Rebels for Bringing War to City

June 13, 1987|MARK FINEMAN | Times Staff Writer

MANILA — President Corazon Aquino conceded Friday that the Communist guerrillas "have brought their war to the city," after a series of ambushes and assassinations claimed the lives of at least five lawmen in Manila this week.

Aquino vowed to take revenge for the attacks, part of the worst wave of terrorism to strike Manila in recent history.

Speaking in Tagalog, the national language, before a sparse crowd gathered in a downtown park to commemorate Philippine Independence Day, she said:

"We must make them pay for all this. I know that many of you, my dear countrymen, are extremely worried. You ask, 'What should we do?' My answer is that we will not allow them to destroy us."

Her words brought loud applause.

She said the Communist New People's Army has intensified its guerrilla war in an effort to bring down her government, which won a landslide victory in last month's election.

Confident of Victory

The Communists' "attacks are becoming more serious, to make you believe that your government cannot protect you," she went on. "I stand before you to let you know your government can defeat the terrorism and the threats."

Aquino made no response to charges by the political left that it was the armed forces, not the rebels, who attacked leftist leader Bernabe Buscayno on Tuesday. The left says the attack on Buscayno was designed to avenge the killing of soldiers and policemen last week.

Buscayno, who is believed to be the founder of the New People's Army in the 1960s, was jailed twice under former President Ferdinand E. Marcos. He was among 400 prisoners released by Aquino two days after she took power in February, 1986, and he was one of several former rebels who ran for office in the May 11 election.

In a radio interview in his hospital room Thursday night, Buscayno appealed to his former comrades to stop the urban violence.

Buscayno, who was wounded in the back in Tuesday's attack, in which two associates were killed, said the rebel attacks on lawmen will not bring down the government. "You cannot continue taking an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth," he added. "It is too difficult to make the people understand."

The killing of urban policemen is believed to be the work of rebel hit squads known as "sparrow units." Their targets have in many cases been policemen widely known to be bribe-takers or physically abusive with local citizens.

The military has countered with an elite counterterrorism unit it calls "eagles." Also, there are indications that citizens' vigilante squads are being formed like those that have appeared in rural areas, and it is feared that they will become death squads. Leftist leaders have hinted that it was vigilantes who attacked Buscayno.

In the interview, Buscayno accused no one of the attack on him, but the chairman of the People's Party, Fidel Agcaoili, blamed the military. He said Thursday that the attack was part of a new "counterinsurgency campaign of drying up the water to catch the fish."

The armed forces chief of staff, Gen. Fidel V. Ramos, denied that there was any military involvement in the attack. He suggested that Buscayno was attacked by Communists angered by the former rebel's decision to take part in the political process.

Others With Motive

Ramos, referring to Buscayno by his nom de guerre , Comandante Dante, said, "We must also remember that there are others who have the motive, because Dante campaigned for a 'yes' vote during the plebiscite."

The plebiscite took place in February and approved a new constitution.

Since Buscayno was wounded, many political analysts have described it as an important but discouraging landmark in President Aquino's struggle to restore stability. The popular satirist Luis Beltran, in a Friday newspaper column headlined "Getting Away With Murder," observed:

"The fact that there are so many groups suspected of having ambushed Commander Dante is testimonial to the polarization of Philippine society in this administration. Perhaps what President Cory Aquino needs to prioritize is the forging of national unity instead of tax collection and land reform.

"In the end, the deaths of Dante's companions and his injuries will be additional statistics to the country's unsolved crimes. . . . It is easier to get away with murder in this country than it is to get a police clearance."

In her address Friday, Aquino did indeed issue a call for unity. She appealed to Manila residents to help the police and military investigators by coming forward with information that could solve the killings.

"All of us are part of one hand," she said. " . . . The armed forces, local officials and you--we must all unite to achieve peace. I believe that if we help each other and continue to pray, I believe that we will have peace in our beloved country. . . . "

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