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Army Eases Curfew, Diplomats Fearful of Attacks by Communist Rebels

May 10, 1990

MANILA, Philippines (AP) _ U.S. officials allowed American troops to leave their bases Wednesday for the first time since the weekend slaying of a Marine, and U.S. diplomats began changing license plates to prevent identification by insurgents.

Also Wednesday, prosecutors ordered police to release three suspects in the killing of Gunnery Sgt. John Fredette, 34, saying the arrests were flawed and evidence linking the men to the slaying was insufficient.

Police have refused to obey the court order pending approval from the chief of police and the mayor, officials said.

Assistant prosecutor Dorentino Floresca said his ruling does not absolve the three in the slaying of Fredette but added that evidence presented by the police against them is ″not convincing.″

He ordered police to submit additional evidence against the suspects within five working days.

On Tuesday, police Lt. Col. Macarthur Torres said Renato Angeles, 38, a former Subic base worker, confessed to having accidentally killed Fredette in a robbery attempt. But on Wednesday Angeles denied he made such a confession.

Police earlier speculated Fredette was shot by Communist rebels, who have threatened to kill American service members.

Angeles and two other men were arrested earlier this week.

Adm. Roger Rich, senior U.S. military commander in the Philippines, banned off-post leaves Saturday after Fredette was murdered near the Subic Bay naval base, 50 miles west of Manila.

In a statement Wednesday, the U.S. military said the 40,000 U.S. troops, Defense Department civilians and military dependents would be allowed to leave the six American installations effective immediately but must return between midnight and 5:30 a.m.

Americans who do not live on the bases must return to their homes during the curfew period, the statement said.

″In view of the current situation and continuing, potential threats against U.S. military and military-associated personnel, a curfew from midnight to 5:30 for all U.S. military personnel at all military installations in the Republic of the Philippines has been instituted,″ the statement said.

The order applies to troops at Subic Base, Clark Air Base and the four smaller U.S.-run installations. Local communities near the bases depend heavily on spending by American service members.

Despite the relaxation, U.S. officials said they remained concerned that the Marxist New People’s Army may try to kill Americans before talks begin Monday on extending the lease on the bases. The lease expires in September 1991 and the Marxist rebels have demanded the expulsion of U.S. troops from the Philippines.

On Wednesday, sources in the American community said the U.S. Embassy ordered diplomats to replace their distinctive, diplomatic license tags with regular car plates.

American diplomats have already been varying their routes to work and staggering office hours to reduce the possibility of an ambush. The State Department also is considering increasing hazardous duty pay for embassy employees.

Update hourly