Rivals Sworn In; U.S. Urges Marcos to Quit : Reagan Seeks to Prevent a Civil War

Times Staff Writer

President Reagan called Monday for President Ferdinand E. Marcos to resign after learning that the besieged leader was readying a possible attack on a military camp held by opposition forces demanding the end of his 20-year rule.

“Attempts to prolong the life of the present regime by violence are futile,” White House spokesman Larry Speakes said in a statement authorized by Reagan. “A solution to this crisis can only be achieved through a peaceful transition to a new government.”

The White House is willing to provide a plane to fly Marcos out of the country and, if he should ask, to grant him asylum in the United States, Reagan Administration sources said.


Marcos went ahead with plans for his inauguration todayfor a six-year term as president and called on Philippine citizens to go to Malacanang Palace to defend him.

Pushing for Resignation

Asked if the Administration wanted to see Marcos step down before his inauguration, Speakes said, “We’re trying to precipitate it as quickly as we can.”

Reagan’s statement ended the United States’ 20-year relationship with Marcos. Only 12 hours before, Speakes had said that Reagan did not have the right to ask Marcos to resign. A White House official said Reagan’s dramatic reversal in position was an attempt to head off a bloody civil war.

A Marcos attack on the opposition stronghold “could lead very rapidly to civil war, and no one wanted that to happen,” the official added.

He noted that Camp Crame, the national police headquarters occupied by the rebels, is situated in a Manila suburb and has been surrounded by thousands of civilians who have turned out to show their support for former Defense Minister Juan Ponce Enrile and Lt. Gen. Fidel V. Ramos, leaders of the rebellion, and to protect the soldiers inside from an attack by forces loyal to Marcos.

‘Firing on People’ Feared

“We didn’t want a situation where the Philippine government was firing on its own people,” the official said.


Word that Gen. Fabian C. Ver, the armed forces chief of staff and key Marcos loyalist, appeared to be planning an attack on the camp reached the White House around 4 a.m. EST Monday. Chief of Staff Donald T. Regan and John M. Poindexter, the President’s national security adviser, awakened him at 5 a.m. to advise him of the developments and to get his authorization for the statement calling on Marcos to step down.

“It was our determination there was the possibility of additional violence in the Philippines, attacks by the government” on the rebels, Speakes said. “So we thought it was important we issue a strong statement.”

Enrile and Ramos have declared that opposition leader Corazon Aquino was the legitimate winner of the Feb. 7 presidential election, but the White House statement pointedly withheld U.S. blessing for Aquino.

“A transition government would be something the Filipino people would have to make that decision on,” Speakes said. “The future of the Philippine government is in the hands of the Filipino people.”

The President also decided to send special envoy Philip C. Habib back to Manila on Monday night to resume consultations with the government and the opposition, although his agenda was not spelled out. Habib had returned to the United States from the Philippines on Saturday.

Speakes said that Reagan regards Marcos as “a longtime friend and ally” and is willing to do what he can to ease his departure from power and avert further bloodshed.


Another official drew a parallel with the recent situation in Haiti, where the Administration sent a military C-141 plane to fly the deposed Jean-Claude Duvalier to a safe haven in France.

The Administration had indications beginning last Thursday, Speakes said, that a rebellion led by Enrile and Ramos, the former deputy chief of staff of the armed forces, was brewing.

And a spokesman for Sen. Richard G. Lugar (R-Ind.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said that U.S. officials may have tipped off Enrile that Marcos was planning to arrest him--thus precipitating the rapid sequence of events that culminated with Enrile and Ramos publicly breaking with Marcos and barricading themselves at Camp Aguinaldo, the headquarters of the Defense Ministry.

They later moved to Camp Crame, across the street from Aguinaldo, after deciding the former would be easier to defend.

Enrile has said that he learned about Marcos’ plan to arrest him and Ramos on Saturday morning and immediately called the general to launch their revolt. He has refused to say how he learned of the arrest plan, adding that he acted with no specific assurance of backing from the United States.

“We only depended on our perception that the United States is a fair country,” he said.

Enrile and Ramos resigned their government positions Saturday and since then have been protected by sympathetic troops and thousands of civilians mobilized by the Roman Catholic Church.


In an attempt to keep the volatile situation from escalating into all-out civil war, Reagan on Sunday threatened Marcos with an immediate cutoff of U.S. military aid if he uses American arms against the insurgents. As a further contingency plan, State Department officials were looking into the possibility of freezing Philippine assets in this country as a way to bring additional pressure on Marcos to step down.

There is concern, however, that such a move could precipitate an uncontrollable financial crisis in the debt-ridden Philippines that could hurt the population at large and further complicate U.S. relations with the next government.

Speakes described the military situation as “precarious,” but said that the 191,000 Americans living and working in the Philippines are not experiencing any difficulty. U.S. troops stationed at the sprawling U.S. naval base at Subic Bay and at Clark Air Base about 60 miles northwest of Manila have not been placed on alert, he said.

Pentagon officials stressed Monday that there are no plans to give up the bases, which are considered crucial to U.S. operations in the Pacific. They said that the agreement to operate the military facilities was reached with the government of the Philippines and not simply with Marcos.

“We recognize countries, not people,” said Speakes, underscoring the Administration’s desire to maintain its military arrangement with whoever is in power in Manila.

The State Department issued a travel advisory Monday, warning Americans not to visit the Philippines because of “unsettled conditions.” Earlier advisories have urged caution and suggested that travelers check with the department before planning a Philippine trip. Some commercial flights have already been canceled, and Manila’s international airport has been closed sporadically since the unrest began.


Reagan has not spoken directly with Marcos, and Speakes said there are no plans for him to do so. Officials believe that Reagan’s sentiments have been plainly telegraphed in his public statements and through diplomatic channels and that there is nothing to be gained by thrusting him further into the fray.

Should Marcos ask for asylum in the United States, as is widely anticipated, he could evade any possible trial for involvement in the 1983 assassination of Benigno S. Aquino Jr., Corazon Aquino’s husband and the principal opposition leader. This country does not have an extradition treaty in force with the Philippines and would not be required to return Marcos for trial.

Times staff writers Doyle McManus and James Gerstenzang contributed to this story.