LIN NEUMANN March 3 1986


LIN NEUMANN March 3 1986




The batallion of 1,000 marines, the tanks and the armored cars of the ruler had pulled to within 2.5 km of the national police headquarters in Manila on Sunday, with orders to smash a popular uprising. But thousands of Filipinos loyal to opposition leader Corazon (Cory) Aquino blocked the way. Inside Camp Crame, six kilometres east of the presidential palace, leaders of the revolt—which was swiftly endorsed by Washington and the Roman Catholic Church—vowed to topple the 20-year regime of Ferdinand Marcos. Declared Lt.-Gen. Fidel Ramos: “This is not a coup but a revolution of ! the people.” Returning to Manila from southern Cebu City, Aquino declared, j “For the sake of the Filipino people, I ask Mr. Marcos to step down now so that we can have a peaceful transition of government.” At the Vatican, Pope John Paul lí called for a “peaceful and just solution, without violence or bloodj shed.” But at the Malacaftang Palace, Marcos vowed to retain power and to proceed with his controversial inauguration this week.

The demand for the president’s resignation flowed out of protests throughout the nation that Marcos and his supporters had rigged the Feb. 7 election.

! The U.S.-educated leaders of the rebel; lion were both longtime allies of the president: Ramos, 57, a West Point graduate, whom Marcos had named to take over command of the army next month; and Harvard-trained lawyer Juan Ponce Enrile, 62, the defence min' ister. The two men and their loyalists barricaded themselves in Manila’s Camp Crame, the national police head! quarters, and adjacent Camp Aguinaldo, the largest of six military bases in ; Manila and the site of the four-storey defence ministry headquarters. Said Enrile: “We want the will of the people to be respected. We will stay here until we are killed.”

On Sunday, facing threats by Marcos to end the protest, Enrile abandoned the defence ministry headquarters to consolidate the base with Ramos at Camp ¡ Crame, just minutes north on Epifanio de los Santos Ave. Pilots loyal to the rebels flew helicopters overhead and Enrile told cheering supporters, “Let us help each other at this special moment

in our history.” As Enrile made the short walk from Camp Aguinaldo, the crowd chanted “Cory! Cory!” and nuns handed out soft drinks to soldiers. With citizens neutralizing the Marcos troops in the streets, at week’s end an uneasy and menacing standoff prevailed between the embattled president and the swelling ranks of the opposition.

Blunt: Marcos, characteristically, vowed to defy the threat to his hardfisted regime (page 18). As workers prepared hoarding for his inaugural, the president declared: “I certainly will not resign on the say-so of someone else. I feel myself legally proclaimed and will continue to run the government.” On Saturday Ramos and Enrile, a Marcos minister for most of his years in power, were equally blunt in their assertions. Ramos told assembled reporters: “I am withdrawing my support for the president. It is my duty to to see that the sovereign will of the people is respected. I am bothered by my conscience.”

Enrile declared that the Marcos camp cheated in the balloting, and he appealed to his former cabinet colleagues not to “support an illegitimate government.” He also said he believed that

Marcos and armed forces chief of staff Gen. Fabian C. Ver were behind the assassination in 1983 of Cory Aquino’s husband, Benigno, who had returned from U.S. exile to challenge the president. Enrile, who had himself been reelected in the Feb.7 balloting, although he admitted that his workers cheated, declared: “I am morally convinced that it was Mrs. Aquino who was elected by the Filipino people. We can no longer live under these conditions.”

Marcos was undeterred by the open challenge to his power. Speaking Saturday on television from his office in the Malacañang Palace, he called on Ramos and Enrile “to stop this stupidity and surrender.” He also raised the threat of “liquidating” those who were opposing him, adding that he was prepared to attack the rebels with artillery and tanks. Marcos, who said he had discovered a plan by opponents to assassinate himself and his wife, Imelda, claimed

that only 1,000 soldiers supported the rebellion and that his army’s field commanders “are all united in expressing their loyalty to the constitution and the president. ”

Fraud: In reality, the opposition was widespread. Jaime Cardinal Sin, the country’s Roman Catholic prelate, broadcast a statement calling for Filipinos—85 per cent of them Catholic—to support Enrile and Ramos. Said the church leader: “Our two good friends have shown their idealism. I would be very happy if you could support them now.” And in Washington, Senator Richard Lugar, an Indiana Republican who headed a team of U.S. observers to the Philippine election and concluded that the vote was marked by fraud and intimidation, declared: “With the church against him, the middle class and now, it appears, the military, the situation is rapidly deterioriating.”

The rebellion started only a few hours after U.S. special envoy Philip Habib left Manila after a week-long fact-finding mission to the country of 54 million. U.S officials said Enrile phoned several ambassadors, including U.S. Ambassador Stephen Bosworth, but only after

the revolt had occurred. They added that a special task force had been set up to monitor the crisis. One persistent Marcos critic in the United States, Democratic Congressman Stephen Solarz of New York, said that President Ronald Reagan should offer Marcos refuge in i the United States to avoid bloodshed in the Philippines.

Meanwhile, in a statement approved by Reagan, White House spokesman Larry Speakes said the rebellion was “a reinforcement of our concern that the ; recent election was marred by fraud.” j The statement added that the abuses were “so extreme as to impair the capacity of the government of the Philippines j to cope with a growing insurgency and a troubled economy.” Democratic Senator | John Kerry, another member of the Lugar-led observer team, declared, “Hopefully, Marcos will see the writing on the ¡ wall and there will be a peaceful transition of power.”

Violent: But any transfer of power could be bloody. The election itself— scarred by 30 political assassinations and widespread intimidation—established a climate of violence that still exists. And Marcos’s 200,000-strong armed forces is divided into at least three factions. One is the so-called “constitutional” faction led by Ramos, who was expected to replace Ver on March 1 as military commander. Ver, Marcos’s former chauffeur and leader of a second, pro-Marcos group of officers, was one of 26 military men who were acquitted of the 1983 assassination of Benigno Aquino. The third group is made up of young and idealistic officers belonging to a movement called Reform the Armed Forces. They are decidedly—and perhaps violently—opposed to Marcos.

Barely 12 hours after the rebellion began, other military leaders seemed to be rallying to Ramos’s call for support. Officers stationed at the defence ministry building said that seven serving and former generals had expressed their support for Ramos and Enrile. A spokesman for guards at Camp LapuLapu, headquarters of the Third Infantry Division, said: “We are heeding the j orders of Gen. Ramos.” And observers said that troops loyal to Ramos had taken over the military camps in the Manila district of Quezon, eight kilometres from the Malacañang Palace, j Said Solarz: “There is a very real possibility that the Philippines could be involved in a civil war.” At the same time, pro-Marcos troops commanded by Ver j moved to within three kilometres of the two rebel-controlled camps.

If Marcos does leave—either peacefully or by force—it will be the end of an era. The 68-year-old president assumed power in 1965, and he has since run the j group of islands that make up the Philippines with a network of largely cor-

rupt loyalists in his New Society Movement. Their reach extends into virtually every town and village and appeals to the poor more than any other group. Marcos was forced to call the snap election—the first contested presidential vote in 17 years—last December following waves of popular protest against Ver’s acquittal in the murder of Aquino. Aquino’s 53-year old widow then became a candidate when Marcos’s opponents signed a petition asking her to run.

Debt: For many Filipinos, Cory

Aquino’s lack of political experience was a virtue in a land where politics has traditionally been colored by unfair dealing. Other observers, however, said that she would be unable to address the problems posed by the country’s $36-billion foreign debt, massive unemployment and the growing insurgency of the Communist New People’s Army. The ensuing eight-week campaign was marked by shrill accusations and counteraccusations and widespread violence.

Observers and journalists roamed the country to scrutinize the contest. The outcome was important not only for Filipinos but for the entire Pacific region and the United States, which maintains two vital military installations on the islands: the Subic Bay Naval Base and Clark Air Force Base. For much of the campaign period Marcos, supported by a group of back-country warlords, $225 million in campaign funds and much of the media, seemed likely to win.

But Marcos was hurt by news reports. Reports published in the United States claimed that he was not the Second World War hero that he claimed to be. And a former Hollywood starlet named Dovie Beams revealed that during a two-year affair with Marcos she had learned Filipino state secrets from the president and that she still received affectionate notes from him. There were also allegations studied by a U.S. congressional committee that Marcos and his wife Imelda—the rumor was that she would succeed him—had invested heavily in U.S. real estate interests.

Results: Eventually, Aquino began to draw crowds that were larger and more animated than those that attended Marcos rallies. And despite the president’s well-publicized declarations that he would give away land to farmers and urban squatters and cut gasoline prices by 12 per cent, the final vote was in Marcos’s favor only after massive and conspicuous fraud. While Filipinos waited out a painfully slow count of ballots by their government’s Commission on Elections (COMELEC) and an in-

dependent group, the National Citizens’ Movement for Free Elections (NAMFREL), it became clear that the most able and even dangerous opponent Marcos had ever faced could unseat him.

After a final count by the Batasan, the 200-seat national assembly dominated by Marcos supporters, the results were announced: 10,807,197 for Marcos and 9,291,716 for Aquino. The final count, however was highly suspect: a group of 35 COMELEC workers walked off the job, claiming that there were vote-counting irregularities. As well, observers such as Canadian Senator Alasdair Graham, one of 43 members of an international team that watched voting practices in 300 communities, said that the election had been rigged in favor of Marcos.

Last week Marcos critics publicized new charges of fraud. Jose Concepcion, head of NAMFREL, said that postmen and water-meter readers fixed pro-government campaign stickers to doors in many neighborhoods and noted which households removed them. Many of the names of those antigovernment residents were then erased from the registration lists, Concepcion charged, disenfranchising as many as two million voters. And last week the international community condemned Marcos. Fourteen nations—including Canada—indicated that they would not send a representative to the inauguration. Only the Soviet Union was known to have congratulated Marcos on his re-election.

Even Reagan, who had initally said that balloting fraud could have occurred on both sides in the vote, later accused

Marcos of profiting from a tainted election. And protests against Marcos grew more forceful among the people of the Philippines and the United States. Before last week’s uprising, Aquino herself led two protest rallies in Manila attended by an estimated 1.5 million Filipinos. Meanwhile, many of her followers withdrew money from banks owned by Marcos supporters and boycotted the popular San Miguel beer—manufactured by Marcos’s cousin Eduardo Cojuanco. In Washington the House of Representatives subcommittee on East Asia and the Pacific approved a bill that would withhold military aid to Marcos—currently almost $55 million a year but projected to double next year—and channel economic aid valued at $181.2

million through private organizations.

Just hours before the beginning of the Saturday uprising, Marcos had warned against civil disturbances. Said the embattled president: “I will exercise to the limit the provisions of the law to prevent any fighting in the streets.” Still, at press time on Sunday, with army factions taking up positions against each other, there had been no violence. Inside Camp Aguinaldo soldiers lolled on the grass, and one said, “We don’t have anything to be afraid of.” As the world watched with concern, it appeared that the man who had vowed not to bow to pressure—from inside or from abroad— was more alone than he had ever been in his two decades of power.

LIN NEUMANN in Manila with