Prominent Leftist Killed, Supporters Blame Government
MANILA, Philippines (AP) _ Gunmen killed a prominent young leftist outside his office Saturday, hours after he called a mass rally to protest ″the resurgence of fascist rule in the country.″
Supporters blamed President Corazon Aquino’s government for the death of Lean Alejandro, 27, secretary-general of the militant New Patriotic Alliance.
Alejandro had decried what he said was growing military influence in the Aquino administration.
Rumors of troop movements in Manila and the provinces swept the capital after the shooting. Armed Forces spokesman Col. Honesto Isleta confirmed the military sent additional patrols throughout the city to prevent any attempts at destabilization. Three weeks ago, a coup attempt against the government failed.
The government condemned Saturday’s killing and Mrs. Aquino vowed to remain in office.
Joe Castro, an associate of Alejandro, said gunmen in a white van fired from close range at the car of the former student activist as it was entering the grounds of his organization’s office in suburban Quezon City.
Castro said the men fired directly at Alejandro’s face. Driver Roberto Panganiban was critically wounded. One of two women staff members in the back seat was grazed by a bullet and sent home after treatment.
The assassination was expected to heighten tensions in a country still reeling from the aftershocks of a military coup attempt Aug. 28 and the government shake-up that followed.
Earlier Saturday, employees of the Department of Agrarian Reform found four bombs outside the department’s land transfer office. One of the devices defused by police had only three minutes to go before it was set to explode.
Alejandro’s killers escaped. But leaders of various student, labor, peasant and other groups affiliated with his organization said they held the government responsible.
They said Mrs. Aquino’s recent overtures to the armed forces were encouraging the military to crack down on organizations suspected of being Communist fronts.
″We hold the Aquino regime responsible for this heinous crime,″ Castro said. ″It has consciously and assiduously sanctioned political repression and unleashed its military troops against the people’s legitimate organizations.
″We aver that Lean’s murderers could have only been those who hold it in their interest to crush the resurgent nationalist and democratic mass movement and stem growing protests to worsening social conditions,″ Castro said.
Leftist groups charged last week that the military and other rightist groups planned to kill key leftist figures to justify imposing emergency rule.
″I think the events of the last few weeks have made it increasingly clear that there is no difference between the military loyal to the old regime and the military that is loyal to Cory Aquino,″ Alejandro’s widow, Lydenaida, told reporters.
Presidential spokesman Teodoro Benigno called the killing a ″very tragic travesty of law and order.″ He said the murder was ″truly regrettable ... especially at a time when President Aquino is calling on everyone to join hands and enable the country to reach the higher ground of democracy and the rule of law.″
Mrs. Aquino vowed Saturday to remain in office until her term expires June 30, 1992.
″There is a commitment on my part to serve out the full term,″ she told visiting mayors and provincial governors. ″I know that I would be able to do so.″
Alejandro’s group, known by its Tagalog-language acronym BAYAN, helped sweep Mrs. Aquino to power in February 1986 but was disappointed by her failure to initiate broad social reform which the ″people power revolution″ promised.
Shortly before the ambush, Alejandro told a news conference at the National Press Club that BAYAN would stage a rally Monday to protest military influence in the government.
Monday is the 15th anniversary of the declaration of martial law by ousted President Ferdinand Marcos. Leftists vowed to go ahead with the protest.
Alejandro’s shooting was the latest in a series of killings, kidnappings and attacks which have shaken public confidence in the government.
On Aug. 2, gunmen killed Local Governments Secretary Jaime Ferrer.
Last November, left-wing labor leader Rolando Olalia was killed a week before the government blocked a coup attempt by right-wing military officers.
In June, gunmen wounded former Communist rebel leader Bernabe Buscayno and killed three companions in an ambush.
Before Saturday’s shooting, Ramos summoned senior military officials to discuss preventing attempts by either leftist or rightist groups to further undermine the government.