Government Troops Battle Rebels, Reportedly Kill Guerrilla Leader
MANILA, Philippines (AP) _ Government troops battled communist rebels near Clark Air Base and killed the guerrilla who allegedly masterminded an attack against U.S. servicemen last year, the government news agency reported today.
The agency said shooting continued sporadically for nine hours as soldiers chased an unknown number of New People’s Army guerrillas through a sugar cane field about five miles from the base Tuesday.
Meanwhile, suspected communist rebels killed a policeman in a Manila suburb today, police said. On Tuesday, unidentified men killed the mayor of a nearby town as he arrived at a suburban hospital to seek medication for his arthritic wife, police said.
In a separate development, Vice President Salvador Laurel asked President Corazon Aquino today to convene the National Security Council to formulate an official stand on the future of U.S. military bases in the Philippines.
″We should close ranks on this issue because the stakes involved are crucial and they affect the very future of our people,″ Laurel said in a letter to Mrs. Aquino. Copies of the letter were distributed to reporters by Laurel’s office.
Laurel said convening the council, the country’s highest advisory group on security matters, was necessary because of conflicting statements by government officials on the future of Clark Air Base, Subic Naval Base and four smaller installations.
Some officials have said they are against renewing the 1947 lease on the bases when it expires in 1991, while others say they favor extending the lease provided the United States increases military and economic aid.
Mrs. Aquino has said she will respect the agreement until 1991 but is keeping her options open on what to do afterward.
Officials at the central Luzon regional military command said initially that two rebels were killed in the fighting near Clark but reported later that only one rebel was slain. They said the other dead person was a girl caught in the crossfire.
A statement from the command identified the slain rebel only by his alias, ″Ka (Comrade) Aries.″ It said he was allegedly one of the hitmen who killed three Americans and a Filipino in attacks in October near Clark, 50 miles north of Manila.
The Philippine News Agency later quoted Lt. Col. Amado Espino, chief of the Philippine Constabulary command in Angeles city, as saying that a captured rebel had identified Ka Aries as ″the one who masterminded″ the Oct. 28 attacks.
The rebels have claimed responsibility for the killings and have threatened more attacks on American targets because of continued U.S. military assistance to the Aquino government.
Military officials said Tuesday’s clash began when troops arrived at the cane field after being tipped off about the rebels’ presence in the area. They said a helicopter and an armored personnel carrier were brought in three hours later.
Police in the Manila suburb of Las Pinas said Angelito Miranda died immediately when five unidentified men sprayed him with automatic rifle fire in the lobby of the Perpetual Help Medical Center. He suffered 21 bullet wounds, police said.
Miranda was mayor of the town of Bacoor in nearby Cavite province. His wife escaped unhurt, but a hospital security guard was wounded in the shooting, police said.
The assailants escaped in a waiting car.
Gonzales said police have ruled out the possibility that communist rebels killed Miranda. He reported members of Miranda’s family as saying they suspected personal motives behind the slaying, but he did not elaborate.
In neighboring Pasay City, five suspected communist gunmen killed Patrolman Danilo Laberez today at a busy intersection near the domestic airport terminal, police said.
Communist guerrillas have been blamed for the slayings of about 200 people in the Manila area since January 1987.