Human-Rights Abuse Pinned on Communists

Philippine military uncovers mass grave, shifts blame from self

POSSIBLE evidence of a recent violent purge in the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) raises doubts about some human rights violations attributed to the Aquino government. The Philippine military claims it has uncovered the remains of more than three dozen people killed in 1988 by the outlawed CPP from among its ranks.

Three former members of the New People's Army (NPA), the Communist Party's military arm, led soldiers to two secret mass grave sites last month in the forested mountains south of Manila where purge victims were allegedly buried.

Two of the ex-NPA guerrillas say they were tortured and marked for execution by comrades. The third says he was ordered to arrest fellow comrades suspected of being government spies, or ``deep penetration agents'' (DPAs).

The uncovered remains, which show signs of torture, gunshots, and stabbing, have not been identified. The military, which is conducting forensic tests, expects to find that identities will match those of several dozen leftist activists who disappeared since 1987.

Such disappearances have often been blamed on the military by left-leaning or international human-rights activists.

Since coming to power in 1986, President Corazon Aquino has been criticized, both at home and overseas, for not taking stronger action against human-rights violations allegedly committed by the Armed Forces of the Philippines in their counterinsurgency warfare.

Military intelligence sources say those buried in what they dub as an NPA ``killing field'' were tortured and executed on suspicion of being DPAs.

The party's pursuit of suspected government spies began after the military captured 40 top CPP leaders over the past three years. These arrests included nine members of the CPP's Central Committee.

Known as ``Operation Missing Link,'' the purge was launched in December 1987 by the Central Committee to protect internal party security, which its leaders say had been compromised by infiltration, according to alleged party documents captured by the military.

The purge included high-ranking cadres, NPA fighters, and party activists who operate in legal organizations. The number of party members is estimated to be about 33,000; for rifle-carrying guerrillas, the number is close to 8,000.

The captured documents reveal the CPP intended to mount a campaign led by human-rights groups to put the blame for the missing activists on the armed forces. They state that by the time the Central Committee ordered a stop to the purge, 70 to 200 underground and legal activists had been killed.

Severino Ranoda, a former guerrilla who fled the movement after his best friend was killed in the purge, says he first realized that something was wrong last August, when he noticed that there were fewer men in his unit. This, he says, was unusual because they had seen little military action at the time.

The next month, Mr. Ranoda was assigned to a team whose job was to detain suspected military agents.

Although the purge was supposed to be confidential, he and other comrades knew the NPA was torturing and killing people because the screams and moans of prisoners ``shattered the stillness of the night'' in the mountains, Ranoda has stated.

Eduardo Borromeo, another NPA defector, says he was detained by his comrades in October 1988. He believes he was betrayed by his wife, another NPA fighter who was his superior, after suggesting to her that they leave the NPA.

The third defector, Apolinario Pabricio, was a peasant organizer for the CPP and collected ``revolutionary taxes'' from ethnic Chinese businessmen. Last October he was arrested by comrades for being ``too friendly'' with local soldiers.

Both Messrs. Borromeo and Pabricio say they were chained to their cots for a month in a detention center in the mountains of Quezon Province, near an abandoned NPA camp.

They say they were beaten, starved, and threatened with execution unless they admitted the charges against them and pinpointed other alleged agents of the government.

They claim they escaped execution only after two high-ranking party leaders came to the camp in mid-November to investigate the handling of the purge.

Saturino Ocampo, a Party Politburo member, and his wife, Carolina Malay, both of whom represent the communist-led National Democratic Front, reportedly apologized to the remaining detainees and promised them their freedom. But they asked the survivors to refrain from talking about their experience in the death camp because ``it would do much damage to the movement.''

The two leaders explained that although an order had been made to execute suspected DPAs, the killings should have been done only after a fair trial. They also said it was not CPP policy to torture prisoners.

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