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Bombs rock two Philippine hotels

By
ANNA GOMEZ

MANILA, Philippines -- Bombs exploded Sunday in two five-star hotels in the capital's financial district, wounding eight people, as police braced for a possible uprising by rebel soldiers expected to take advantage of a general strike over increased petroleum prices.

In her weekly radio talk show, President Corazon Aquino appealed for understanding of price increases attributed to the Persian Gulf crisis and warned that 'enemies of democracy' would exploit calls for mass actions by leftist trade unions and transport drivers.

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'As before, they will not hesitate to kill and destroy,' Aquino said. 'As before, they will fail in their dark designs.'

Education officials suspended classes in metropolitan Manila and in major cities of Cebu, Iloilo and Davao as a precaution against the general strike scheduled for Monday.

Police Col. Remy Macaspac said the blasts took place in rooms at the Hotel Nikko Manila Garden and the Mandarin Oriental Hotel. Both rooms were registered to Manuel Castillo, apparently an assumed name.

Castillo, carrying only an attache case, first checked in at the Hotel Nikko Manila Garden, Macaspac said. He said the blast went off at 2:55 p.m. at his assigned room, 947, causing considerable damage.

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Hotel spokeswoman Nora Saba said the bomb apparently was planted in the bathtub. She said shards of window glass fell on the swimming pool area below, causing minor injuries to eight people, including four children.

Macaspac said an hour later another blast rocked Room 402 in the Mandarin Oriental Hotel, also registered moments earlier under Castillo's name. No injuries were reported but the room was wrecked, hotel spokeswoman Jessica Santos said.

Macaspac said the bombs were C-4 high explosives of the type used by the military and were the 24th and 25th bombings in the capital since Aug. 13.

The previous incidents wounded nine people and were blamed on rebel soldiers who have tried six times to oust Aquino.

'This is a cowardly act meant to destabilize the government,' said Tourism Secretary Peter Garrucho, who inspected the two hotels following the bombings. 'The idea is to try to frighten particularly some of our foreign guests,' Garrucho said.

The bombings took place on the eve of a planned general strike in the capital called by leftist trade unions and transport drivers to protest a 29 percent increase in the price of petroleum products, generally attributed to the Persian Gulf crisis.

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Police and troops were placed on alert. Coup attempts followed protests over petroleum price increases in August 1988 and December 1989.

Earlier Sunday, a security guard chased two men who pitched a Molotov cocktail at a building in the Makati financial district housing the Iranian and Belgian embassies. No one was hurt.

Jejomar Binay, mayor of the financial district, blamed the bombings on rebel soldiers. 'This shows they dont have the capability to overthrow this government so they are resorting to bombings,' he said.

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