The upsurge of opposition bombings has sharpened the impasse between President Ferdinand Marcos and his critics. The Philippine leader has now declared that he will not end martial law in his country so long as the bombings persist.
Before a bomb injured 18 people at a convention of travel agents in Manila Oct. 19, the President had declared he would begin to lift martial law by next March, providing the economic crisis eased and problems with a Muslim rebellion in the south wer manageable.
But the President now cites the bomb explosion right after the his keynote speech at the travel convention as further proof that the threat of chaos may require a continuation of his own brand of what has been called "marial law with a smile."
Of course, critics of the President argue he is only seizing the latest bombing to justify a course he would have taken anyway.
Indeed, the President scarcely needed the bombings, which began in August, to justify more martial law. If he so chose, President Marcos could have used some other pretext to reverse his conditional pledge to begin "climbing off the back of the tiger" beginning in March.
The bombings have punctured the image of Mr. Marcos as a person who can maintain order. They have publicly humiliated him. And they have demolished the argument that martial law is fully able to eliminate the chaos and violence that marked pre-martial law days under American-style democracy.
At the same time the bombings may have helped the President by reminding many Filipinos of just how violent the Philippines was before martial law. For many years during martial law the relative absence of robberies and murders by gun, hand grenade, and kniffe had caused many Filipinos, however reluctantly, to accept their president.
Now the opposition "April 6" movement, which claims responsibility for the bombings, has identified itself with the unpopular violence of the old order. To some extent this discredit at least a segment of the opposition. This is so even though the group obviously has not sought to kill large numbers of people. Only one person has died in dozens of bombings.
President Marcos's response has been to tighten security and order the arrest of some 30 people, many of them out of the country. On the list is chief rival former Sen. Benigno Aquino, now in residence at Harvard University.
The government reportedly plans to revive a murder case against the American-based opposition leader, who received the death sentence in 1977 on charges of murder, subversion, and possession of illegal firearms. Until now litigation over evidence on the murder charge had stayed the sentence. But a government news agency says action by a military tribunal may expedite action on the murder charge.
Mr. Aquino, freed in May for surgery in the US, repeatedly denies involvement with the April 6 movement.
The arrest order also identifies former Sen. Jovito Salonga, in the Philippines, and former Sen. Raul Manglapus, in the US; others are former Manila newspaper publisher Eugenio Lopez Jr., and his brother-in-law Steven Psinakis, both in the US. There is no extradition agreement with the US, but many of those still in the Philippines are reported under military detention.
Ironically, former Senator Salonga was himself crippled years ago by a hand grenade thrown during a campaign rally.
The latest bomb attack and the President's arrest order sparked a wave of denials from Filipino exiles in the United States.
"How can I openly support them?" asked former Senator Aquino. "What they are doing is plainly illegal. But to the extent that they want to end martial law, I am for them," he is quoted as saying.
"If bombing is all they are doing, it is not useful," Raul Manglapus is quoted as saying.
Mr. Aquino is quoted as saying the guerrillas are mostly "nameless and faceless" people who have not been identified with previous political activity.
"It is ridiculous that they should look for scapegoats in the US," Heherson "Sonny" Alverez, also ordered arrested, is quoted as saying.
"Mr. Marcos is simply trying to distract our attention from the fact that there are a lot of people unhappy with his regime right at home."