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Motives remain mystery in series of Philippine bombings

The continuing wave of bombings of government and private buildings in Manila has cast a shadow of mystery over growing opposition to the martial law rule of Philippines President Ferdinand Marcos.

Security measures have been stepped up following Sept. 12 bombings at nearly a dozen buildings. As of this writing casualties were listed as one dead and 33 wounded.

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The latest bombings came shortly after the government again accused opposition leader Benigno Aquino Jr., now in the United States, of ordering an urban guerrilla war in the Philippines. This time the accusation was said to be based on a confession by Baltazar Lovely, one of three brothers arrested a week ago and alleged to be preparing a campaign of bombings in Manila.

Mr. Aquino denies the charges.

The government report also linked the three brothers with 11 generally harmless bomb explosions which rocked Manila Aug. 22 and 25.

An opposition group calling itself the April 6 Liberation Movement has issued communiques claiming responsibility for both the August bombings and those last week.

But government statements have linked the bombings with Mr. Aquino and with other American-based opposition figures related to the Light a Fire Movement. Authorities allege that documents found with the arrested Lovely brothers mention other US-based opponents -- former Sen. Raul Manglapus and Steve Psinakis. These men allegedly helped in the dramatic escape from prison and from the Philippines of martial law detainees Eugenio Lopez Jr. and Sergio Osmena III.

The bombings began just days after Mr. Aquino, President Marcos's leading political rival, gave an Aug. 4 New York speech warning of urban guerrilla warfare unless martial law is lifted soon. After the bombings Mr. Aquino repeatedly maintained he was predicting what would happen -- rather than actually advocating violence.

But whatever the facts behind the bombings and arrests, it is still unclear to what extent urban uprising is possible in the Philippines. In that country politicians like Mr. Aquino have long been known for oratorical exaggeration. President Marcos' opponents have repeatedly claimed to have strong, unified grass roots support that is waiting for the right moment to erupt into rebellion. But so far, at least, there has been no evidence of such support.

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Still, many residents and visitors report that despite rising disillusionment among Filipinos about what is seen as widespread corruption -- many feel that things were worse during the chaotic, violence-filled days before martial law.

But there is deep skepticism that President Marcos will voluntarily dismantle martial law. This is so even though he has repeatedly said he will begin to do so by May of next year, if the southern Muslim rebellion ends and the country is economically sound.

One of President Marcos's strengths has been the disunity of his opponents. On the one hand there are the longtime Marxist rural guerrillas known as the New People's Army. Then there are the wealthy old-style politicians (often lawyers) from the country's oligarchy which once dominated congress (Mr. Aquino is one of these). These are frequently divided by personality, style, and background. Another group comes from radical students and radical representatives of the Roman Catholic Church. Then in the southern island of Mindanao there are Muslim separatists fighting President Marcos's army.

One of the President's major strengths has been the fact that all this disunity reinforces his contention that the alternative to martial law would most likely be chaos.

On Aug. 29 more than 70 members of about eight opposition groups attempted to bridge their differences by signing a "national covenant for freedom."

Most of the signers were identified with the old established congressional groups -- leaders of the pre-martial law Liberal and Nationalist Parties. The new bloc's covenant set five goals including: end of martial law, free and honest elections, social justice, human rights, protection against foreign domination, and social justice for Muslim Filipinos.

There was no detailed policy program, although some signers said one could emerge in "a matter of weeks."

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