MANILA — Philippine police hunting Communist assassins raided a Manila university Sunday and rounded up 39 peasants, living on campus, who are suspected of having links with the rebels.
The raid followed the killing of 14 people, including three Americans, in street ambushes in the Manila area during the last week. Police blamed the killings on Communist death squads, nicknamed "sparrows."
Police said they confiscated three hand grenades from the peasants and a document containing instructions on how to conduct a background check on people targeted for "sparrow" executions.
However, the country's leading human rights organization, the Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates, branded as "outrageous" charges that the peasants had links with rebel groups.
The raid on the Polytechnic University of the Philippines was the first by police on a university since President Corazon Aquino took over the presidency 20 months ago. Soldiers and police conducted frequent raids on campuses during the rule of ousted President Ferdinand E. Marcos.
The peasants denied any links with the rebels and said they were refugees from the central Philippine island of Leyte, 350 miles south of Manila, according to the human rights group.
Alliance head Arnel de Guzman said the peasants had been scheduled to testify before the Senate Committee on Human Rights regarding alleged harassment by anti-Communist vigilantes in their area. They had already testified before a committee of the House of Representatives.
De Guzman said 2,000 Leyte villagers have streamed into Manila since August to escape harassment by the vigilantes. Some of them were housed on the university campus and others in the homes of relatives because the government refused to shelter them, he said.
However, police Maj. Romeo Maganto quoted intelligence reports as saying that urban rebels belonging to the Communist New People's Army have found shelter on the campus, less than one mile from the presidential palace.
He said the 39 people arrested Sunday were being questioned but that no charges had been filed.