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On the run with gun ... and computer

Filipino communists are grieving about more than the capture of top party leaders this week. They are also bemoaning a ``bug'' in their computers.

Here's how the ``bug'' started:

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In recent months, the Communist Party of the Philippines has imported dozens of small Casio personal computers for cadres fighting in the hills and jungles.

The laptops are lightweight enough to carry in a backpack whenever a guerrilla is being chased by government soldiers.

The computers allow party leaders and guerrillas in the New People's Army to send coded messages to each other via radio transmissions, which greatly helps them to communicate across the nation's 7,100 islands. Battle plans can be coordinated and new doctrine quickly disseminated.

The military, in the meantime, has been able to pick up the computer transmissions, but reportedly has not yet cracked the code.

The computer software employed by the communists has an antipiracy ``virus'' built into it that has, on many occasions, eaten whole documents and even the entire memory of cadre computers, according to those close to the party. The ``virus,'' as it is called in the computer industry, can spread as software is exchanged.

The party employs a dozen computer experts who can deal with such technical problems. One nice feature about the software bug, however, is that it flashes a warning before it liquidates a file.

``Watch out for the dungeon,'' the warning reads.

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