Democracy in the Philippines

I read with interest Mark Fineman's article (April 5) about the pistoleros of Danao, Philippines, and also about the local kingpin, Ramon Durano.

I had the opportunity to volunteer for the NAMFREL (National Citizens Movement for Free Elections) last Feb. 2, during the Philippine Constitutional Plebiscite. Watching the people assert their democratic right to vote was really something. People waited in line for hours. Even those who could barely read affixed their vote on the ballot. A humpbacked man whose hands shook violently voted. And many of them stayed until their ballots fell into the ballot boxes; they had been cheated so many times in the past and they were not going to let it happen again.

After the plebiscite, in which the "yes" vote won, NAMFREL coordinators discussed the problem in Danao. Ramon Durano has controlled the place for so long, using "guns, goons, and gold (bribery)," to get his way that voters there hesitated going to the polls on Feb. 2. NAMFREL nuns and priests went to the Danao polls and their presence encouraged the people to go ahead and vote. The "yes" vote, defying Durano, won in Danao.

This May 11, I know that NAMFREL volunteers will once again risk their lives to protect the Filipino's precious rights to elect their own officials. Having observed the people last February, I know that they will vote as they please. The Filipino people had undergone a baptism in the February 1986 revolution. People power worked and it can work again.

CECILIA MANGUERRA BRAINARD

Santa Monica

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