Manila church leader at Aquino service strikes out at Marcos 'tyranny'
Manila — The divide between society and government in the Philippines seems to be growing. An estimated 1 million people turned out Wednesday for the funeral of assassinated opposition leader Benigno Aquino Jr. They were undeterred by a monsoonal downpour, while the banners they carried and the slogans they shouted made it clear that many of them still did not believe the government account of Aquino's murder Aug. 21.
Equally important, Jaime Cardinal Sin, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Manila, abandoned any remaining pretext of being impartial concerning public resentment against the Marcos regime. In his funeral homily, he delivered his strongest attack yet on Marcos.
About 10,000 people attended the service in a Manila church, including the ambassadors of the United States, Canada, France, and several other nations.
The cardinal, viewed as a political moderate by many people and as a conservative by student leaders, nationalists, and the leftist underground, made what he called an ''unequivocal'' call for peace and nonviolence in response to the murder of Aquino. But at the same time he attacked the ''atmosphere of oppression and corruption, the climate of fear and anguish in the country today.''
''The Filipino,'' he said, ''finds his true home only where truth and justice , freedom and faith flourish.'' Now, the cardinal said, the Filipino had become ''an exile in his own country.''
''In his own land he must whisper - and never shout - what is true; he must tremble before those who were sworn to serve him, and he must hide his children if they refuse to bow down to tyranny.''
The cardinal took up the call that Aquino had apparently hoped to make on his return: he challenged the government to ''restore those freedoms the people have lost. . . .''
A prayer by the cardinal underlined his new view of the government. Praying for peace, he addressed himself to the Aquino family and to various sectors of society. First he mentioned ''my countrymen in the hills,'' a clear reference to the communist guerrillas of the New People's Army, ''who fight for a cause you believe in.'' The gentle reference to a group whose politics the cardinal openly says he hates contrasted abruptly with his words for the powers that be.
(The New People's Army is not expected to heed the cardinal's call for peace: they feel the Aquino murder confirms their belief that resistance to President Ferdinand Marcos must be waged primarily by force of arms.)
The cardinal next mentioned the army which ''though recruited to protect our nation from invaders, must now suffer the anguish of knowing that your enemies are now your brother Filipinos.'' Then he turned to government officials ''now struggling to preserve their humanity and integrity before the eyes of the people.''
The surge in anti-government sentiment, however, has not found an effective voice among the various leaders of the official opposition. Political observers say the moderate opposition lacks the organization and stature needed to sustain a populist movement against the Marcos regime.
Crowds slowed the cortege all along its path from the Santo Domingo church across Manila to the burial site. It was joined by hundreds of thousand of mourners on foot, who had no difficulty keeping up with the procession. Eight hours after the service, the cortege had completed less than two thirds of its 26-kilometer route.
The crowds were well-behaved. Many were out to enjoy themselves. But they were better organized, and there was a harsher edge to their slogans and shouts.
The police and military were there, but they tried to keep in the background. A general in plainclothes (but with his name and rank embroidered on the back of his baseball cap) seemed to be in charge of security. He moved around surrounded by a small group of burly bodyguards, one of them with a yellow ribbon - now the sign of mourning for Aquino - wrapped around his head.
Despite the security, the political left was out in force, making no attempt to hide their affiliation: as one of their cadres said Tuesday, ''If the government tried to do anything to this crowd, they would be inviting massive and uncontrollable civil disobedience.''
The leftists organized their own demonstration within the main body of the procession. Thousands of them, massed in the center of the capital near the American Embassy, carried big banners denouncing the ''fascist dictatorship'' of Marcos and marched with clenched fists raised in the air. No violence was reported.
Most radio and television stations, which like their print counterparts are closely controlled by the government, were restrained in their coverage of the event. The leading news item on one of the larger radio stations at 11 a.m., as the cortege made its way slowly through the university belt, was a report on a government water program.
The government television channel did not mention the funeral at all in the headlines of its 7 p.m. news show. Instead it led with Henry Kissinger's call for the Reagan visit to Manila to continue.
A brief report on the burial was made later in the program, along with an announcement from Imelda Marcos, governor of MetroManila, that because of ''heavy rain and traffic jams'' all public transport in the capital would be free of charge.
One radio station that gave live coverage of the funeral was the Roman Catholic Church's Radio Veritas. For part of the day, however, its outside broadcast facilities were reportedly beset by unexplained technical problems.