I was quite surprised to read "Security Overkill in the Philippines" by John G. Healey (Op-Ed Pages, May 3) in your usually reliable paper because the writer obviously did not know what he was talking about.
He says that the government authorized and encouraged the formation of civilian self-defense forces. The government did not originally organize the Alsa Masa in Davao, the first of these groups. It did acknowledge the group's contribution to the country: They got rid of the communist New People's Army activities in their area. The operations of these groups are being reviewed, by the way, to prevent abuses.
At the risk of attempting what Healey describes as "impossible," the Nueva Ecija killing of 17 villagers can be logically explained and we do not know if any military group--Filipino or American--could have acted differently.
I do not know if Healey asked enough questions as a newsman to discover that the head of that patrol in Lupao had asked for water for himself and his men in that village. While he was going down the bamboo stairs, he was shot at from the house. His men fired at the source of the bullets. The NPA had used people in the house as shields (something they often do) and the soldiers had no way of knowing the situation. All they knew was that their commander had been shot at and they were returning fire.