Marcos Is Named Winner; Reagan Questions Victory : Ruling Party Guilty of Fraud, President Says
President Reagan, faced with an outcry from members of Congress demanding a cutoff of U.S. aid to the Philippines, said Saturday that election fraud and violence carried out primarily by supporters of President Ferdinand E. Marcos had “called into question” the ballot count declaring him a winner.
It was Reagan’s strongest condemnation of the Philippine election to date, and he clearly sought to quell the widespread criticism generated by an ad-lib remark last Tuesday that fraud and violence may have been “occurring on both sides.” This time, he emphasized in a statement issued as he prepared to return to Washington from Santa Barbara that the fraud and violence were “perpetrated largely by the ruling party,” which Marcos heads.
Reagan said that while his emissary, Philip C. Habib, had only just arrived in Manila, “it has already become evident, sadly, that the elections were marred by widespread fraud and violence” that were “so extreme that the election’s credibility has been called into question both within the Philippines and the United States.”
U.S. Ready to Help
He called on the people of the Philippines not to resort to violence and pleaded with the two opposing political factions to work together to bring about stability.
The President said that the United States is prepared to help the Philippines in “any way we can,” but he did not respond directly to the growing number of members of Congress who have been calling for a halt to U.S. aid to the Marcos regime. He previously has indicated that he would oppose such an aid cutoff.
A senior Administration official told reporters that the aim of Reagan’s statement was to stress U.S. determination to “remain positively involved” in the Philippines. He appeared to be signaling a decision not to cut off U.S. aid to the Manila regime.
Rarely in recent history have so many senators and representatives issued statements on a single foreign policy topic, especially during a congressional recess. Without exception, those who spoke out on Saturday questioned the veracity of the ballot tally completed in Manila, showing Marcos the victor.
Sen. Richard G. Lugar (R-Ind.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and head of an election observer delegation that returned from Manila last week, told reporters in Indiana that because of the fraud he “will not accept the legitimacy of this vote count by the National Assembly.”
“There were so many votes miscounted, recounted and never made that this election is fatally flawed,” said Lugar, who earlier in the week had declined to draw any conclusions from incidents of fraud that he witnessed in the Philippines.
3 Senators Comment
Three Democrats touring the Philippines, Sens. David L. Boren of Oklahoma, Carl Levin of Michigan and David Pryor of Arkansas, issued a joint statement in Washington calling on the President to “avoid any action which would give legitimacy” to Marcos’ proclaimed victory.
“It is clear that there was massive fraud initiated by the Marcos government in an attempt to frustrate the democratic process,” said the senators, who went to the Philippines at the request of Minority Leader Robert C. Byrd (D-W.Va.).
“Such actions violate everything we believe as Americans. We must not, and cannot, condone this mockery of democracy by remaining silent. Millions of brave Filipinos deserve more from America.”
The senators said that they agree with the Roman Catholic bishops of the Philippines that “it is wrong for a government to seek to stay in power in disregard of the will of the people.”
In the past few days, many other prominent lawmakers, including Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole (R-Kan.) and Sen. Sam Nunn (D-Ga.), ranking Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee, have added their voices to the outcry. Nunn declared Marcos’ opponent, Corazon Aquino, the apparent winner, and Dole said that the United States should accelerate efforts to find suitable spots for relocating two U.S. military bases in the Philippines.
Lugar Weighing Plan
Although Lugar has been reluctant to embrace calls for an end to U.S. aid, an aide said the Foreign Relations Committee chairman is considering a proposal that would redirect the aid to non-governmental voluntary groups and the Catholic Church. Several other members of Congress, including Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.), have made similar suggestions.
Lugar’s aide, Mark Helmke, said the senator had learned on Saturday that ballot boxes were stolen from several precincts that he had visited in Concepcion last week. He added that Lugar had talked during the recess to many constituents in Indiana who were outraged by recent developments in the Philippines.
The President said Saturday that the United States has “maintained strict neutrality” during the election, urging only that it be fair and credible. He added that the elections had demonstrated the “continuing commitment of the Filipino people to the democratic process.”
“At this difficult juncture, it is imperative that all responsible Filipinos seek peaceful ways to effect stability within their society and to avoid violence which would benefit only those who wish to see an end to democracy,” he said. “Both sides must work together to make those reforms which are needed to ensure a stable democracy, a truly professional military and a healthy economy.”
Reagan said that there are “no easy answers” to the current stalemate and that the Philippine people must solve the crisis themselves. “But they will have our help--in any way we can,” he said.
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