MANILA, NOV. 2 -- Five heavily armed men today attacked and disarmed two security guards protecting a housing subdivision in Angeles City, where many U.S. servicemen live and where two were shot dead last week. It is less than a half-mile from Clark Air Base.
The attackers, suspected of being communist guerrillas, carried M16 automatic rifles. They did not try to enter the housing complex, called Don Bonifacio, but fled into the surrounding field after taking .38-caliber handguns from the two Filipino guards.
Police and a Philippine military unit chased the retreating rebels and fired several shots, but none was captured, according to Filipino and American officials.
U.S. military officials appeared to be playing down the incident. Pampanga Province, where Clark is located, is known to be infiltrated by guerrillas of the communist New People's Army. "That kind of stuff happens all the time," said Maj. Thomas Boyd, a spokesman for Clark. "That's not unusual for the Philippines."
But a police official in adjacent Angeles City, north of Manila, told reporters that the attack bore the mark of a typical communist weapons-seizure operation. Nardo Ramos, an Angeles City police captain, also told reporters that the rebels may have been "casing" the subdivision to determine which houses belonged to American citizens.
Coming five days after the slaying of three American servicemen, and with continuing U.S. Embassy warnings that more Americans may be at risk, the attack appeared to be a show of strength by the communist rebels following increased security measures in and around Clark after last Thursday's still unsolved murders.
Over the weekend, the U.S. Embassy telephoned American officials and diplomats and warned them to stay away from the popular Ermita tourist district, which houses many of the city's go-go bars. "The Strip," as it is popularly known, was expected to be packed with Halloween revelers, and embassy spokesmen said they had received reports that terrorists would take advantage of the crowds to strike again.
No incidents were reported.
At Clark, meanwhile, tight restrictions remained in effect on the movements of U.S. military personnel. All nonessential travel off the base has been prohibited. All off-base tours, sporting events and shopping trips have been canceled. While Angeles City has begun to show the first signs of financial strain from the loss of the American servicemen's dollars, some facilities on the air base -- such as the bowling alley and the gymnasium -- have started staying open 24 hours a day.
In a separate development, Philippine authorities filed criminal charges against Nemesio Prudente, the leftist president of the Polytechnic University of the Philippines, after a weekend police raid on the campus netted three hand grenades.
Police also arrested 39 persons in that raid, claiming they were possible members of NPA "sparrow units" behind a recent wave of urban assassinations here. Human rights advocates condemned the raids, calling the police action reminiscent of the days of Ferdinand Marcos' presidency, when police frequently raided college campuses.
Human rights advocates said the arrested persons were refugees from Leyte island in the central Philippines, and were fleeing persecution by right-wing anticommunist vigilantes in their homes.