Aquino redoubles effort to force Marcos out
The voting is over, but Corazon Aquino is still campaigning. Apparently stung by President Reagan's comments on the Philippine election, the opposition candidate Tuesday called on ``friends of democracy abroad'' not to lessen their pressure on President Ferdinand Marcos.
Mrs. Aquino and her aides repeated their determination to force Mr. Marcos to concede power. Their timetable and methods for doing so remain unclear.
Mr. Reagan, when questioned about the election Monday, said that despite claims of fraud, the election showed evidence of a ``strong two-party system'' in the Philippines. He expressed the hope that the two parties would ``come together'' after election results are known.
But in her statement yesterday, Aquino said: ``Do not make the mistake, in the name of shortsighted self-interest, of coming to the support of a failing dictator. In this time of need,'' the statement said, ``we will learn who our real friends are.''
Earlier Tuesday, Aquino's brother -- Jose Cojuangco, one of her closest advisers -- had lunch with United States Ambassador Stephen Bosworth. Sources in the Aquino campaign said that the ambassador had urged that Aquino exercise caution. Mr. Cojuangco denied this, saying that he had simply requested that the ambassador clarify Reagan's statement.
Aquino aides seemed irritated at Reagan's remarks. ``What is your President saying?'' asked Joey Lina, Aquino's director of internal operations. Mr. Lina added that Reagan's remarks have not changed the opposition's basic plan: ``We have to chase Marcos out.''
Aquino has announced that she considers herself the real winner of the Feb. 7 election and has threatened daily demonstrations if Marcos does not agree to hand over power. But the first large rally since the election -- described by some aides as a proclamation rally and scheduled for Thursday -- has been postponed.
Aquino aides say that the postponement was caused by the assassination yesterday of former governor Evelio Javier, Aquino's campaign manager for the central province of Antique. Aquino and Manila's Jaime Cardinal Sin are expected to attend the funeral.
Jaime Ongpin, a senior adviser to Aquino said that there is ``no alternative'' to taking the anti-Marcos campaign into the streets. But, he said, this would be done in a completely nonviolent fashion. ``We won't offer the slightest provocation.''
Aquino's aides admit that part of their strategy is based on the belief that popular disillusionment with Marcos has reached the point where troops will refuse to use force against protestors. Her campaign staff has also been in contact with members of the armed forces reform group (made up of disaffected members of the Philippine military and commonly called ``RAM'').
``We've asked them [RAM] not to do anything rash'' if the campaign takes to the streets, an Aquino adviser said. ``But if they receive any word of government provocations being planned against us, we've asked them to help prevent them.''
Members of the left-wing mass organization called Bayan (the Tagalog-language acronym for ``New Nationalist Alliance'') say they have proposed joint street actions with the Aquino camp but have been asked to keep their distance. ``With our nationwide organizational network and Aquino's numbers, we could rock the regime,'' a Bayan organizer said Tuesday. But Aquino's aides had been cool to the idea. ``They want to keep their lines with us open -- but that's all,'' a Bayan member said.
Despite the apparent delays and confusions in Aquino's plans, the government does seem rattled.
``If she proclaims herself the winner, then that's confrontation,'' said a government minister Tuesday. ``And if there is a confrontation, we'll go all the way,'' said the minister, who did not wish to be identified.
The minister doubted both the opposition's resolve to push for direct confrontation and its ability to sustain a campaign in the streets. ``The President is ready for brinkmanship,'' he said. ``I don't think the opposition is.'' Even if they do mount a campaign, he said, it would probably not last more than a month. He suggested that US ``elements'' had had a hand in Aquino's campaign.
``Aquino doesn't have enough brains for this; the whole thing has been too well-timed,'' he said. But, he concluded, there was absolutely no way the President would stand down.
``We're not talking of elections any longer,'' he said. ``We're talking of survival.''