Support for President Aquino
CORAZON Aquino's visit to the United States this week is as much a homecoming as an official visit by one of the world's newest -- and most important -- heads of state. Mrs. Aquino spent a decade living in the US. Her husband taught college in America. It was the withdrawal of Washington's backing for Ferdinand Marcos that finally spelled the end of that corrupt regime. And it is to the US that Filipinos now properly look for the diplomatic, political, and financial support needed to ensure the success of Aquino's ``people power'' democratic revolution. And yet, what must be deplored, as Aquino has her face-to-face meeting with President Reagan and addresses the US Congress, is that the administration has yet to commit its full moral backing for the new leader. Granted, Secretary of State George Shultz did visit with Aquino twice. And there was President Reagan's eventual long-distance congratulatory telephone call to Aquino after her installation as President. But that call was balanced out with a call by Mr. Reagan to Ferdinand Marcos in Honolulu.
In recent weeks, the backbiting against Aquino coming out of official Washington circles has intensified. Unnamed administration sources have criticized her efforts at reconciliation with rebel forces, preferring instead the more hard-line military drive against the communists favored by Defense Minister Juan Ponce Enrile. Mr. Enrile has himself ratcheted up the infighting by lending credence to reports that he will likely be a future presidential candidate, notwithstanding Mrs. Aquino. And then there were Enrile's curious remarks last week. He might lose his patience with critics of his in Manila, he said. When he loses patience he is ``like Rambo.'' And when Aquino called him on the phone, he remarked that ``she was very kind and had a very soft voice.''
It would be tragic indeed if the US were to be less than fully supportive -- even generous -- with the Philippines and Aquino. Strategically, of course, the US and the Philippines need each other. The Philippines urgently requires a fresh infusion of economic assistance and debt relief, with its economy sagging and a $26 billion external debt. And Washington needs access to the vital US military bases there. The Philippines sits astride the important sea lanes to South Asia and the Indian Ocean. The Phillipines deserves to stand at the forefront of the US strategic agenda for Asia.
But it would be a mistake to see the relationship in just economic or political terms. To ordinary Filipinos -- despite differences in culture -- the US is considered the ``mother country.'' It was the US that set the modern Philippines on the road to democracy.
Mrs. Aquino is a decent, able, honorable woman who is committed to a democratic and prosperous future for her nation's 55 million people. She deserves to succeed. And so too does her nation. Full support from the White House is long overdue.