Rebels in Samal hit hard by the vote

Communist leaders in the Philippines took a political blow in Monday's plebiscite on a new Constitution - which they opposed. And they perhaps took it the hardest in this town. Samal is located on the infamous ``death march'' road, where some 10,000 American and Filipino soldiers died in 1942 after the Japanese took the peninsula of Bataan.

Today, with the name etched in memory, Bataan has become another battleground.

``It is a showcase for the world,'' says the province's governor, Bing Rumino. ``And it borders on the American naval base at Subic Bay. That's why the communists are making a stand here.''

Last Dec. 11, one day after a cease-fire began, 72 communist guerrillas marched through Samal with rifles raised. They heard speeches by the party's two representatives to political talks with the government. The display shocked many Filipinos.

But the communists also said they controlled Samal. In fact, the town is rife with communist posters and signs. The new, communist-backed ``People's Party'' would do well in coming elections, they said.

The rebels asked many residents to fill out ``survey'' forms, asking them how they would vote on the Constitution.

``It was a neat psychological trick backed up by terror,'' says Governor Rumino. At voting areas, rebels watched rice farmers and fishermen go into the booths.

But when the votes were tallied, Corazon Aquino and her Constitution had won - with over 70 percent of the count.

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