MANILA, JUNE 5 -- Nearly four months after the collapse of a cease-fire between the government and communist rebels, the Philippines' 18-year insurgency shows signs of reverting to a protracted conflict with no end in sight, according to several senior military officials and foreign analysts.

The Philippine military has remained incapable of delivering a decisive blow against the rebels, or even scoring a significant battlefield victory, despite President Corazon Aquino's recent call for "a string of honorable military victories to follow up my proclamation of war."

"We have won some battles, {but} not something you can be proud of as a military man," Defense Secretary Rafael Ileto told the Foreign Correspondents Club of the Philippines yesterday.

That view appears to be shared by other senior military officials and foreign observers interviewed over the last few weeks on the state of the insurgency.

In an interview last month, defense undersecretary Fortunato Abat, a retired general, said, "To be able to convince the public that their armed forces are doing well is to be able to score a decisive military victory . . . . We're waiting for it, and we're hoping we'll be able to get it."

Other senior military officials and diplomats blamed the civilian authorities for allowing the war to drag on into a stalemate. One foreign military analyst, echoing a widely repeated view, complained recently that the Aquino government had placed too much time and emphasis on ratification of the constitution and restoring civil liberties, while delaying action on rural development problems that fuel the insurgency.

"A constitution isn't going to give you three square meals a day," this diplomat said. "You need land reform, dams, roads to markets . . . . The causes of the insurgency are still there."

A six-month amnesty program announced in February has brought in only about 1,000 armed communist regular troops, not enough to offset the insurgency's continued growth of about 9 percent over the last year, according to recent military estimates. The communists, thought to number about 22,000, still operate in more than 60 of the country's 74 provinces, and have stepped up their activities in the cities with dramatic assassinations.

But while the military has proven unable to defeat the rebels on the ground, the Communist Party of the Philippines and its military wing, the New People's Army, have also reached what is perhaps their weakest and most vulnerable point in the history of the insurgency, analysts said.

Since the popular Aquino came to power 15 months ago, the left has been rebuffed twice by Filipino voters, who overwhelmingly approved a new democratic constitution and who last month turned out in record numbers to support Aquino's moderate-centrist candidates for the legislature.

Also, the New People's Army has been hurt badly by the proliferation of local anticommunist vigilante groups that have driven the rebels from some of their traditional strongholds, like Davao City in Mindanao.

The vigilante groups have posed a dilemma for the Aquino government and the military. On the one hand, groups like Alsa Masa in Davao have proven more capable than the military of driving communist rebels out of local areas. But, at the same time, some vigilante groups have been accused of brutality worse than that of the New People's Army, like the celebrated case of Alsa Masa members who beheaded a suspected communist and displayed the severed head to reporters.

The government has yet to announce an official policy on the vigilantes. Ileto said the vigilantes aid the military effort by driving the communists from their strongholds and into areas where they are more vulnerable to military offensives.

But Ileto added that the military wanted to keep a hands-off attitude toward the vigilantes, neither providing them arms nor monitoring their activities, because "then the public will blame us if something goes wrong."

The military's inability to exploit the communists' current weaknesses has prompted concern among Pentagon officials in Washington. They have complained publicly of complacency in the government and a lack of sufficient military equipment.

Ileto said, "We cannot win a war in one battle . . . . I wish that Washington would not judge this war by one battle."

The Associated Press reported the following:

Three gunmen shot a police captain to death today in a Manila suburb, officials said. He was the fourth lawman slain in the capital area in two days.

Capt. Jaime de la Paz, chief of the mobile unit for the Pasig police department, was gunned down this morning as he left his residence for work, said Sgt. Angel Sumulong.