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Aquino Orders Military to Free Marcos’ 450 Political Prisoners

Associated Press

President Corazon Aquino today ordered the military to release all of deposed ruler Ferdinand E. Marcos’ 450 political prisoners, including suspected members of a communist insurgency.

Presidential spokesman Rene Saguisag announced Aquino’s new directive at a news conference the day after her government slowly began releasing the first of the political prisoners. (Story, Page 10.)

When asked whether the order included Jose Maria Sison, suspected leader of the Philippine Communist Party, which had been outlawed under Marcos, as well as other people suspected of being insurgents, Saguisag replied, “Without any exception.”

Asked then whether the presidential order means immediate release for “all 450 prisoners” that the military acknowledges it is holding, he said, “Well, that is the intent.”

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Saguisag added, however, that releases must be governed by “certain administrative requirements.”

“We want to be sure that not one of them is being held on other charges,” he said.

Meanwhile, Aquino said she had been told that many communist guerrillas of the New People’s Army “would like to come back to the fold and would like to rejoin our society.”

In an interview taped earlier today in Manila and broadcast in London by Independent Television, she said the guerrillas will be welcome “so long as they renounce all forms of violence, they lay down their arms and pledge allegiance to my government.”

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If they do not renounce violence, “well, then we will have the military after them. We cannot allow anyone to fight the government,” she said.

‘Very Strong Resistance’

On the question of releasing political prisoners, presidential spokesman Saguisag had acknowledged Thursday that there is “very strong resistance” to the release of certain people. That was widely interpreted as meaning that senior officials in the Philippine military were adamant that at least some prisoners suspected of taking part in the New People’s Army should not be freed.

But today, Defense Minister Juan Ponce Enrile said: “We are bound by the order of the president. If she issues that order, we will carry it out. . . . But we must, however, state that the responsibility is not ours if the situation will deteriorate.”

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Of 39 prisoners initially slated to be released Thursday, only 16 had actually been freed by this afternoon, bringing criticism from human rights groups and an association of relatives of political prisoners.

In other developments, an ex-senator who led U.S.-based opposition to Marcos returned home today from 14 years in exile and credited President Reagan with helping topple the Philippine ruler.

But former Sen. Raul Manglapus said that despite his gratitude for U.S. actions in ending Marcos’ 20-year reign and bringing Mrs. Aquino to power, he found it “lamentable that it took such a long time for them to do it.”

Scores of people greeted Manglapus as he landed at Manila International Airport. The former president of the U.S.-based Movement for Free Philippines left his Asian island nation the day before Marcos decreed martial law in 1972 and had led anti-Marcos forces in the United States.

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“It was the people of the Philippines, people power, that pushed the dictatorship to the brink,” said Manglapus, referring to the anti-Marcos military and civilian rebellion. “But it was the final Reagan touch that pushed him over.”

On Monday, the White House urged Marcos to relinquish power, saying it would be “futile” to try to retain power by violence.

Elsewhere in Manila, thousands staged a noontime Aquino victory parade through the Mankati financial district as fireworks exploded and confetti from torn-up telephone books, carbon paper and office forms rained down on marchers’ heads.


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