Vowing to continue "a moral struggle" to isolate President Ferdinand E. Marcos from the Filipino people, presidential candidate Corazon Aquino called on the nation Sunday to wage a nonviolent protest campaign, including economic boycotts and a one-day national strike against the Marcos government.
Speaking to more than half a million supporters in a packed, downtown Manila park, Aquino said that the National Assembly's proclamation of Marcos as victor in the Feb. 7 presidential election was done in "indecent haste--an implicit admission of the hollowness of his victory."
But Aquino, who trailed Marcos by 1.5 million votes in final tallies she claims are fraudulent, backed off her own claims to victory in the crucial election, which was marred by widespread fraud, violence and questionable returns.
"We have not come to celebrate victory," Aquino told the huge but largely glum crowd. "Nor have we come to concede defeat.
"We have come . . . to continue the struggle against the forces of evil and in this we are not alone. We, the people, are together."
Amid balloons bearing her portrait, kites with her name written across them and T-shirts proclaiming "President Cory," Aquino again urged her supporters to remain nonviolent.
"I am not asking for a violent revolution. This is not the time for that."
The nonviolent protest measures she urged included delayed payment of utility bills, a one-day strike at all schools, businesses and government offices and boycotts of institutions and businesses owned by Marcos' friends and relatives, ranging from banks to beer.
Marcos, though, was taking no chances. As Aquino's mass of supporters condemned him in chants of "Dictator! Dictator!" military security details were deployed around the presidential palace Sunday night. All roads leading to the palace were blocked with five-foot-high barriers of heavy barbed wire manned by soldiers carrying M-16 rifles.
No Prosecution Plans
In an afternoon press conference timed to coincide with Aquino's rally, Marcos took a conciliatory tone when asked whether he will allow the opposition candidate to use her movement to establish a government-in-exile.
"We will pray for her," Marcos said. "We will not prosecute her."
But Marcos stiffened at the suggestion that Aquino, who has the support of the entire political opposition and the powerful Roman Catholic Church, could so alienate the populace that he could not govern this nation of 55 million people.
"I am the president," Marcos said firmly. "They're not going to drive me out because I have the people behind me."
Aquino, who read her entire speech in a monotone from a prepared text, did concede from the stage Sunday, "Although unarmed, I feel like the young boy David ready to face the giant Goliath." But she pledged to continue and intensify her struggle of grass-roots civil disobedience "if he refuses to back down."
The most radical element in Aquino's seven-point program for "nonviolent struggle" is her call for Filipinos to boycott the nation's seven largest banks--all of them owned or controlled by close friends of Marcos.
"This is clearly the most dramatic," said Ramon Mitra, an opposition assemblyman and an Aquino campaign aide who shared the stage with her Sunday. "Watch the banks on Monday. If we have a major bank run, it'll be a disaster for the government."
Among other measures in the program that Aquino laid down during her rally is a one-day, total strike at schools and offices throughout the country on the first working day after Marcos' inauguration, which is now scheduled for Feb. 25.
"Let us show Marcos and the world he is not supported by the people," Aquino declared, adding that the protest should be a peaceful "day of prayer."
The 53-year-old widow of slain opposition leader Benigno S. Aquino Jr. also called for a boycott of all daily newspapers owned by Marcos' relatives and friends. The so-called "crony-keepers" routinely slant the news to favor the president, and they largely shunned Aquino throughout the grueling, 57-day presidential campaign. She also urged her supporters not to buy any products advertised in those papers.
Another controversial measure Aquino urged is a boycott of products made by San Miguel Corp., which manufactures the most popular local brand of beer and Coca-Cola. The corporation is controlled by pro-Marcos entrepreneurs.
'Noise Barrage' Urged
Finally, in a tone that rang of a government-in-exile, Aquino told the crowd she will speak to the Filipino people over the radio every night at 8 o'clock, and she asked them to go outside when her nightly broadcast is over and bang pots and pans and honk their horns non-stop for 15 minutes. That kind of protest is known here as a "noise barrage."
And she issued an appeal to the powerful Philippine military, which is divided between hard-liners and members of a reformist movement, to "look into your conscience. . . . It is not against the law to disobey unjust orders."
When Aquino had finished her speech with a final call for peace, Mitra was asked whether the politically inexperienced leader's proposals could work in a nation now facing the reality of six more years of Marcos, the 68-year-old authoritarian leader who has been in power for the past two decades.
"Let's wait and see," he said. "All I can say for sure is this is a determined lady. She simply cannot be stopped, unless, of course, she is killed."
Aquino is scheduled to take her appeal to the rural provinces on a five-day tour that will begin near the site of the American Clark Air Base, in Angeles City on Wednesday.