Singapore — The United States is being drawn ever more deeply into the controversy surrounding a mounting campaign of bombings in the Philippines. The explosion at a convention of the American Society of Travel Agents in Manila Sunday is only the most recent such bombing.
One reason the United States is being pulled into the debate is that the Philippines government contends the attackers receive training in the US. It is calling for an American crackdown on such activities.
"The American government cannot now ignore the fact that some of its own nationals are getting involved with the internal law- and-order problem of this country," Defense Minister Juan Ponce Enrile declared Oct. 10.
At the same time, opponents of President Ferdinand Marocs's eight-year-old martial- law rule say that the bombing campaign, which has been going on for the past month and a half, is partly aimed at forcing the United States to withdraw support for the Philippine President.
Mr. Marcos was attending the meeting of travel agents when the bomb exploded Sunday. It went off only yards away from him. He was not hurt, though about 20 others were injured. No one was killed.
Hotels and supermarkets frequented by Americans have become major bombing targets. Two US servicemen were wounded Oct. 4 in attacks on hotels used almost exclusively by Americans outside the Clark Air Base in Angeles about 60 miles north of Manila.
The US Embassy in Manila now warns American military and civilian employees and their families to travel only on main highways and to avoid troubled areas.
The controversy over the "American connection" in the bombings comes amid an increasing challenge to the public image and economic prosperity of the Philippines.
In the fourth blast to rock Manila in less than two months, terrorists threw homemade bombs Oct. 11 in front of three commercial buildings and a sports club in the swank Manila suburb of Makati. The attack came just two days after President Marcos decreed the death penalty for terrorists. That announcement was prompted bya wave of bombings a week and a half earlier at five hotels in Manila and in two other cities.
Now, a day after the attack at travel agents' meeting, the President has issued arrest warrants of 29 people, including three Filipino senators who are in the United States. Mr. Marcos commented that "vigorous action shall be taken to seek exemplary justice and punishment for all those responsible" for the bombing.
The government's inability to end the attacks has increased concern about the impact on tourism and investment on the islands. Indeed, one of the President's major claims to office had been his ability to curtail the violence so endemic to the Philippines before the imposition of martial law.
The bombings have produced a sense of insecurity in the nation, but casualties have been relatively low: one killed and about 70 wounded. This suggests the terrorists are trying more to scare away business than harm large numbers of people.
The April 6 Liberation Movement, which claims responsibility for the bombings , warned delegates in a recent manifesto "not to come to the Philippines in these times of crisis and turmoil."
The alleged American connection has received steady attention since the arrest of Filipino-born Victor Burns Lovely, now an American, and his brother on charges of planning a bomb attack. President Marcos paid a visit to Mr. Lovely immediately after the Oct. 19 attack on the travel agents, asking him for names and other information.
In a televised interview, Defense Minister Enrile said Oct. 11 that the US government should act against US-based Filipino dissidents planning violence.
Mr. Enrile said his country will present proof that some of America's "own nationals" are behind the bombings. He mentioned specifically Los Angeles-based businessman Steve Psinakis. Mr. Enrile accused the Greek-Born executive of helping to train terrorists and sending them to the Philippines.
In reference to the training of bombers in the United States, Mr. Enrile declared: "I understand that when they were in the United States, they were really trained there in some states somewhere in the Midwest or thereabouts by a group headed by Mr. Psinakis." He urged the US to halt such activities.