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URGENT President Meets With Communist Rebels

October 17, 1986

ILOILO CITY, Philippines (AP) _ President Corazon Aquino met with a group of Communist rebels Friday as part of her government’s effort to negotiate an end to a 17-year insurgency, military and church officials said.

The meeting, Mrs. Aquino’s first with the communists since taking office in February, was announced by the Roman Catholic archbishop of this central Philippine city.

The Rev. Alberto Piamonte, in explaining Mrs. Aquino’s delayed arrival for a Mass and rally on the campus of the University of San Agustin, said it was ″due to the fact that she met with the NPA (New People’s Army).″

He gave no details other than that local church authorities had arranged the dialogue.

Armed forces chief Gen. Fidel V. Ramos, who is accompanying Mrs. Aquino on her two-day tour of the central Philippine Visayas region, confirmed that the meeting had been held but did not identify the two local rebel commanders who led the insurgent delegation.

Ramos said he did not attend the meeting, which other sources said took place at Assumption College, another Catholic School in Iloilo City, 290 miles southeast of Manila.

Also with Mrs. Aquino during the meeting were her military aide de camp, Col. Alberto Yap, and Col. Voltaire Gazmin, chief of presidential security, a source in the president’s party said, adding that the meeting lasted less than an hour.

The meeting took place shortly after Mrs. Aquino defended her policy of negotiating peace with the New People’s Army in a speech to soldiers at a military camp.

″I am pursuing the path of negotiations with the insurgents because I want to spare our country further bloodshed and the loss of precious lives we need for the reconstruction of our country,″ she said.

Mrs. Aquino arrived in Iloilo Friday after an overnight visit to Bacolod on the adjacent island of Negros.

Church officials had also tried to arrange a meeting between Mrs. Aquino and rebels there but the plans fell through.