The Philippines

The article ``Davao -- blueprint for a communist takeover,'' March 26, presents the situation as though it were a battle of ideologies and armies. In April 1984 I participated in a fact-finding mission in northern Mindanao, where we investigated instances of military abuse resulting in the deaths of some 40 civilians. I remember one meeting with residents of a barrio that was being terrorized. The people said that the military came at night and arrested or killed their neighbors. One member of our group asked, ``Why don't you move away from here to somewhere safer?'' A woman replied, ``We can't leave. Our only livelihood is here.'' A man added, ``If we stay, we have one enemy, the bullet. But if we leave we have three enemies: breakfast, lunch, and dinner.'' I heard that sentiment expressed over and over as I talked with impoverished people in rural barrios and urban slums.

Poverty and its causes are the primary enemies of the Filipino people, directly affecting over 70 percent of the population. When people are working for starvation wages, when profits are flowing to foreign companies, when their government, with financial support from the United States, brutally represses their attempts to seek justice, is it any wonder that they rebel?

The article includes quotes from business and military leaders, and from members the New People's Army (NPA) responding to questions about tactics. There is one quote from a taxi driver about the tactics of the NPA. Where are the voices of the poor -- the majority -- who are most affected by the violence? Where is a discussion of the poverty that has led to such drastic actions?

Some US leaders are whipping up a communist scare as they seek funding for the contras fighting in Nicaragua as well as a 150 percent increase in military aid to the Marcos regime. This is a crucial time for us to get beyond the rhetoric and look at the realities. Doug Cunningham United Methodist Missionary Washington

The editorial ``Capitalism's Euro-Asian odyssey,'' March 27, gives the impression that the issue of development is simply a question of choice between the so-called ideologies of capitalism and socialism. Factors such as the size and diversity of the country, its resources, social and political heritage, levels and tolerance of inequality, influence of international politics, and what one writer aptly called ``the politics of civility'' should not be ignored.

Among Southeast Asian countries, the Philippines is now considered a failure, although in the early phase of the Marcos era it was often paraded as heading toward success. If the Philippines had failed, is it because its leaders did not follow the rosy path of capitalism and chose the thorny path of socialism instead?

Singapore, to give another example, is a tiny city ruled by a highly efficient, ruthless, ``socialist'' politician. How can you compare its development with India, a country of 700 million, the most populous democracy in the world? One should not object if you compared the growth of an Indian city, say Bangalore, with Singapore. Robi Chakravorti, Professor Sacramento, Calif.

The editorial ``Living by the symbol,'' April 17, is a fine editorial and much needed. But I object to the use of the words ``concentration camp'' in place of the real term, ``death camp.'' Several times, as in ``at the concentration camp at Bergen-Belsen,'' you used the euphemism that the White House PR men want you to use, instead of the correct term, which is death camps or extermination camps. After all, we are discussing the crime of the century, genocide. We must not try to pretty up the past. Never Again also includes Never Forget. James L. Jackson McLean, Va.

Letters are welcome. Only a selection can be published and none individually acknowledged. All are subject to condensation. Please address letters to ``readers write.''

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