Panel to Call for Emergency Powers for Aquino

United Press International

A Cabinet-level commission has agreed to recommend granting Philippine President Corazon Aquino emergency powers for six months rather than have her declare a revolutionary government, a Cabinet minister said today.

Political Affairs Minister Antonio Cuenco said the study panel will recommend that the National Assembly convene May 12 to enact the extraordinary legislation to get the nation back on its feet after 20 years of rule by Ferdinand E. Marcos.

Four of the five members of the panel rejected a proposal that Aquino be allowed to proclaim a revolutionary government. Instead, she would be granted special sweeping powers, including the right to issue orders that have the force of law, the minister said.

Report Due Wednesday

Cuenco said the commission will submit its recommendations Wednesday to the Cabinet in a meeting chaired by Aquino, after which the finished proposal would be submitted to the National Assembly.

Aquino took over the Philippines on Feb. 25 after a civilian-military revolt toppled Marcos and forced him to flee into exile in Hawaii.

Cuenco said the emergency powers would last at least six months, or until the existing constitution, approved under Marcos in 1973, could be amended.

Referendum Urged

Under the proposal, the National Assembly, after approving the emergency powers, would serve as a constituent assembly to amend the constitution.

The amended constitution, Cuenco said, would be submitted to the Philippine people for their approval in a referendum, and elections to municipal and provincial councils and possibly a new National Assembly would be held in November or next February.

Under the proposal, Aquino could issue orders to reorganize the government and ease the nation's worst economic crisis since World War II, which includes stagnating growth and a foreign debt of about $25 billion.

Only Justice Minister Neptali Gonzales, chairman of the study panel, favors revolutionary government, saying Aquino should not be "hamstrung by constitutional and legal niceties" in straightening out the economy, Cuenco reported.

Rebels Kill 20

Meanwhile, in continuing unrest, leftist guerrillas ambushed a government jeep and raided a rice warehouse in two attacks that left at least 20 people dead, officials said Monday.

Military police officials said that rebels hiding in foxholes along a mountain road Saturday ambushed a government jeep in the coastal municipality of Amlan, in Negros Oriental province almost 400 miles south of Manila, killing 12 people and wounding three.

In Allacapan, Cagayan province, 260 miles north of the capital, about 100 rebels swooped down on a warehouse of the National Food Authority, officials said. Seven troopers and a soldier's wife were killed and five were wounded in a five-hour gun battle. They said five soldiers were missing in the incident, which occurred Friday. It was not known if they had been captured.

Up to 15 guerrillas were reported killed in the warehouse raid. There was no word on guerrilla casualties in the Amlan ambush.

Officials in Aquino's administration said that large numbers of guerrillas of the Communist-led New People's Army have expressed interest in calls for a cease-fire but that leaders of the outlawed Communist Party of the Philippines on Sunday denied that any truce has been declared.

Copyright © 2019, Los Angeles Times
EDITION: California | U.S. & World