The Feb. 7 presidential election in the Philippines will be "free, orderly, peaceful and democratic" because of precautions taken by the government of President Ferdinand E. Marcos, the country's acting foreign minister asserted Wednesday.
At a news conference here, Pacifico Castro defended his government's ban on foreign observers and all news media at polling places, saying that the presence of representatives of the opposition Laban Unido party and civic groups will be sufficient to guarantee fairness.
Castro also said that "not an iota" of proof had been submitted to a congressional inquiry into charges that Marcos and his family have used American aid funds to invest in valuable real estate in the United States and elsewhere. He predicted that an investigation by the General Accounting Office, whose findings are scheduled to be released next month, will clear Marcos.
Castro said that regulations similar to those passed by the National Assembly for next month's voting had been in force in previous elections. Under the law, both foreign observers and reporters, and Filipino reporters, will be required to remain more than 50 yards from the polls.
However, Castro's contention was disputed by Dette Pascual, U.S. spokesman for the National Citizens Movement for Free Elections, who said in an interview that, although legal restrictions on the news media may have existed previously, in practice journalists had free access to polling sites.
In previous elections, she said, squads of government supporters were admitted to the polls by village captains--officials appointed by the Marcos regime--who have the power to give ballots to persons not on the official voters' list. Using this procedure, she continued, the same persons could "fly" from polling place to polling place to produce a government majority.
Nonetheless, Castro insisted: "The elections for president and vice president will be free, orderly, peaceful and democratic. This is because a dominant opposition has been duly accredited by the government."
Will Meet Shultz
The acting foreign minister is in Washington for three days of high-level consultations on U.S.-Philippine relations. Today he is scheduled to meet with Secretary of State George P. Shultz and national security adviser John M. Poindexter.
Pascual, whose organization has been approved by the Marcos government as an official voting monitor, asserted that the supposedly indelible ink bought by the government to mark the hands of voters has proved to be removable.
"This is the biggest problem," she said. "Every voter should be marked to counteract the use of 'flying' voters."
But she agreed with Castro that one element of the election regulations--closing the polls at 3 p.m. on election day so that votes can be counted in daylight--is a good idea. In the past, she recalled, "there have been complications because of sudden blackouts which allowed the switching of ballots."