One evening before the Feb. 7 Philippine elections, while watching the news, my teenage son Matthew asked me who I wanted to win, Marcos or Aquino. I didn't know, I told him. It wasn't clear to me who would be better for the people of the Philippines. It would be easier for me to answer if the American press corps were giving me a better feel for what the campaign is all about, I said, but the accounts coming to me don't say anything about how either President Marcos or Corazon Aquino propose to deal with the economic depression that grips the islands. Friends of mine who have met with Marcos in the last year have come away disappointed, finding him tired out, set in his ways, unable to focus on the problems of the economy. Still, it was gritty of the old man to call the elections. Mrs. Aquino seemed to have the support of the middle class, for reasons not clear to me, and Marcos, like all patronage politicians, has the poor. The only bit of information that I have that makes me lean to Marcos, I said, is that Mrs. Aquino has promised that if she is elected she will see that Marcos is tried for the murder of her husband, Benigno.1 A mandate for revenge is not what she should be seeking from the voters, and the thought troubled me.
* * * *
The conversation nudged me to focus on the elections and to seriously think about the Philippines and their problems. With my staff at Polyconomics I began an exhaustive and careful reading of the worldwide press accounts. I came to the conclusion that Ferdinand Marcos probably won the election outright, that he actually got more votes than Mrs. Aquino. I might have come to the opposite conclusion had I read only one newspaper or magazine, or even a few of each. But there was in our general survey sufficiently persuasive evidence that Marcos did not steal the election, as Newsweek, for example, announced as a matter of fact: "While Ferdinand Marcos was stealing the election last week, Ronald Reagan was looking the other way."2
Newsweek, of course, was not alone in announcing a "Guilty" verdict in its news accounts, only the most direct. With few exceptions, the press corps decided even before the election that Marcos, who called the election, had to be defeated because of the anti-democratic nature of his rule. "Americans are plainly cheering for Mr. Marcos's defeat and there is no shame in that," The New York Times editorialized on election eve, 3 a questionable assertion, I thought, considering that most Americans had as little reliable information on the subject as I. Indeed, The New York Times took an important lead in rooting for Marcos' defeat in its news columns as well, and we found ourselves discouraged in reading the Times dispatches from Manila, grappling with their obvious bias in digging out reliable information and analysis.
My broadest conclusion, though, is that given the voting procedures established for the election, and the intense concentration of the Philippine people on the process, the margin of victory reported by the National assembly for Marcos, 10,807,179 votes to 9,291,716 — more than 1.5 million, is simply too many votes to have been stolen. As the Times itself noted in its pre-election editorial, "Wholesale fraud cannot be kept from his own people." Had that number of votes been stolen, the evidence would have been too conclusive, too many citizens would have been aware of the degree of fraud. The outrage would have led to dramatic civil unrest, and Marcos would have been faced with great bloodshed in the nation — while knowing he had stolen the election.
As it was, Mrs. Aquino seemed relatively subdued and hesitant in her post-election demeanor, which would likely be seen by her followers as her self doubts. Her hesitancy to build the charges of fraud into a confrontation "is already making some campaign stalwarts nervous." The Washington Post reported on the eve of her first post-election rally. "In question is whether this intensely religious woman will have the nerve to lead her throngs of supporters in yellow T-shirts into situations that could provoke violence. . .She has been slow in devising her plan, it is said, partly out of fear that it could turn bloody."4
"In both tone and content, she did not stir the huge crowd as much as might have been possible," the Times reported.5 Hardly a fanatic, she would certainly hesitate to plunge her people into bloody civil disturbances if she suspected Marcos had in fact won outright. Even prior to the official declaration of Marcos' victory, The Washington Post reported: "Already there have been signs that some of the intense election fever has dissipated in the face of the certain proclamation of Marcos past few days, and there is little evidence of interest any longer in the tallies of an independent citizens pollwatching group called Namfrel."6
The deluge of stories and anecdotes about widespread "fraud" has to be discounted because there was nothing systematic reported by any reliable authority, newspaper or group — something that could credibly account for 1.5 million votes. The press accounts are filled with a general litany of "intimidation," "ballot box stuffing or snatching," multiple voting, inexplicable paring of registration lists, and unanimous vote-counts for Marcos in this community or that. But none of these assertions made it beyond the anecdotal stage in any of the press accounts I reviewed. Marcos is correct when he says there has been no evidence produced to support the charges of systematic fraud. If there had been it would have been produced.
What we did see buried in one Times story written the day after the voting was the information that "A CBS News estimate based on what was described as a scientific sample of nearly 200 precincts throughout the nation, involving actual vote returns, found the race to be close and no projection was made."7 The Economist of London reported: "American intelligence estimates confirm the findings of surveys conducted by an American television network. . .of the votes actually cast, Mr. Marcos had won by a margin of about 2% .. ."8
One of the most illuminating stories that appeared in the American press was an account in The Los Angeles Times by the director of the Times poll, I. A. Lewis.9 Lewis recalled that in 1978, when he worked for the Roper Organization, he was hired by Benigno Aquino's deputy — Aquino then being in jail — to poll for the Marcos opposition in advance of the assembly elections. "They were confident that it would show that the opposition slate would win if the electorate's true voice could be heard," Lewis recalls. But when they accompanied him to check on the first day's polling:
The results were startling. Even though only half the respondents had been questioned, it was clear that the government slate was going to win in a landslide. When I explained this to my sponsors, they screamed at me in a mix of Tagalog and English. I understood them to say I was a running dog of the fascist conspiracy....
After about an hour, they arrived at two decisions: They would destroy the polling material, because it could be used against the opposition if it fejl into Marcos' hands, and they would keep the result secret, because it would destroy morale.
I was put aboard the next plane out of Manila. In the morning, I read in the Tokyo newspapers that the underground had conducted a poll showing the opposition winning by a large majority. Of course, it was Mrs. Marcos and her husband who won, overwhelmingly.
Most observers at the time reported widespread election fraud. So the question was: If Marcos was going to win the election anyway, why did he bother to rig the result?
There were obvious reports of widespread "vote buying" by the Marcos organization. But this does not constitute fraud, at least in the Philippines. The Catholic Church, which openly supported Mrs. Aquino, advised the faithful that it was not improper to sell their votes to Marcos but vote for Aquino in their secret ballots. The idea that the Filipino middle class that also supported Mrs. Aquino would demur from buying votes is not a credible one either. Marcos, whose support is with the poor, especially the rural peasantry, complained that "Four or five days before the election, there were suddenly reports that the opposition was buying at 100 to 150 pesos [$5 to $7.50] a vote. . . There's no way of outbidding that." 10 The same account quoted Marcos as charging that "$30 million in foreign funds" had been funneled to the Aquino side and to the NAMFREL vote counters whose tally had Mrs. Aquino ahead. In the total context of this review, this is not out of the question either.
Insofar as the electoral process is concerned, it takes a determined reading of the U.S. press to get a relatively clear picture, and this picture weighs in favor of Marcos. Mortimer Zuckerman, chairman and editor-in-chief of U.S.News & World Report, was in Manila as a member of the presidential election team observing the election. On his return he gave this overview:
To re-establish his lost credibility and legitimacy, especially in the United States, Marcos announced a "snap" presidential election. To create the perception that the election would be fair and honest, he agreed to astonishingly democratic reforms in the electoral process, at least as measured by Philippine standards. These reforms were codified into a new electoral law. It legitimized opposition parties to create a viable two-party system in the Philippines for the first time since the mid-1960s; it guaranteed media access to both parties; it set up an elaborate election process to insure fair voting, and it provided a citizen organization to monitor fairness. ...
. . .the Army stayed out of the electoral process, even though it was "deputized" and could have intimidated the entire election and all opposition media were allowed a robust freedom. This was especially true of the dominant media, national radio rather than TV networks as in America. On television, the opposition received guaranteed free time.
.. .Namfrel, the citizen watchdog group, attracted 500,000 volunteers, supervising about 85 percent of the precincts, compared with 150,000 people and 50-odd percent of the precincts in 1984. Namfrel has now become an independent force, even though its sympathies lie with the opposition.11
There were reports in several of the major U.S. news outlets that the voter turnout was lower than in 1984, with suggestions that this was done by arbitrary government culling of registration lists of suspected Aquino supporters. But Zuckerman's point that a tough new electoral law had been passed since 1984 to safeguard against fraud means that multiple voting can't be used to swell the turnout. A graphic in USA Today is the only place in the American press that explains the established procedure: "New voters registered between Dec. 21-28,1985. They were required to present four photos and personal ID. . . . Four-photo requirement discriminated against the poor."12 Obviously, this security requirement would reduce the number of registrants. But Marcos would lose, not gain, by this regulation, for USA Today is quite right that a four-photo requirement discriminates against the poor — the base of Marcos' support.
The graphic also explains that votes are cast on paper ballots at schools, and "Voter's finger is placed in indelible ink to prevent repeat voting. . . .Ballots are taken to a local canvassing center where they are read in a way that poll watchers can see entries. Six copies are made with NAMFREL and COMELEC (National Movement for Free Elections, and the government's Commission on Elections) each getting one." Each copy is signed by one representative of each party. The "tally sheet, original ballots forwarded to provincial election center where local results are tabulated. Tally sheet and original ballots then sent to National Assembly." (No press account makes the obvious point that these safeguards against multiple voting and ballot box stuffing were bound to reduce the incredibly high turnout rates of previous elections, when the safeguards did not exist. We can find nothing in the U.S. press that gives an official explanation of the "low" (77%!!) turnout, nor any indication the question was ever put to official sources).
USA Today follows with the point that the National Assembly is controlled by Marcos supporters. The point is also made that appeals go to a panel of nine, three Marcos appointees, three Aquino appointees, and three Supreme Court justices who were appointed by Marcos. Even this detail of the process, which can be found ONLY in USA Today as far as we can tell, is not as complete as it could be. We learn in The Los Angeles Times that the official tally sheets were "examined by a special committee of nine legislators called the Board of Tellers — five from Marcos party and four from the opposition — created by the assembly Monday as an official examination board."13 This was certainly a startling bit of information; our first thought was to wonder if, say, the Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives would permit a 5-to-4 balance on the key committee if he had a lopsided majority otherwise. The New York Times, whom we would normally look to for this kind of basic information, gave no space to the election safeguards and we suspect the Times editors don't realize the extent of the procedural checks.
The Marcos opposition, realizing they could not make a case inside the Philippines that Aquino actually got more votes than Marcos, developed an alternative line. "We had anticipated many of the tactics and countered them," Jose Lima, an opposition politician, told The Wall Street Journal's June Kronholz, whose reports from Manila were openly pro-Aquino. "The one thing we didn't anticipate was the deleting of many voters."14 The story explains:
Trimming the voting lists would be new and more efficient than the time-honored methods of hijacking ballot boxes. Jose Concepcion, Namfrel's chairman, says that in selected provinces, thousands of voters may have been dropped and the vote slashed by as much as 20%. If 20% were dropped off the lists in metropolitan Manila and the three regions where Mrs. Aquino's support was strongest, Mrs. Aquino could have lost 1.4 million votes — a possibly decisive change in a close election with 25 million voters nationwide.
This offhand conjecture, tacked onto the tailend of a long post-election piece, was enough for The Economist:
Many young voters who might have supported Mrs. Aquino failed to qualify because they did not provide four photographs of themselves. Others were registered to vote in districts far from their homes, and so did not vote at all. Most importantly, the registers in areas where Mrs. Aquino's support was strongest — Manila and three provinces— were pruned apparently at random by approximately 20%. By the reckoning of The Wall Street Journal, that could have deprived Mrs. Aquino of 1.4m votes, more than enough to have swung a close election.15
Alan Weinstein, a Boston University political science professor who was one of the 44 American observers on Senator Lugar's team, flew back to Manila to look into this, and hurried back for a Washington press conference to explain this unexpected method of fraud, quoting NAMFREL's Mr. Concepcion:
. . .the total number of voters registered was 26,181,829, the actual number of votes counted was only 20,150,160, "representing only 76.96 percent of total registered voters."
"If this is to be believed, the election just held must have had one of the lowest, if not the lowest, number of actual votes counted for the presidency and vice presidency," Mr. Concepcion said.
In 1984, at a time when there was a boycott campaign by many anti-Government voters, nearly 90 percent of those registered actually voted. If that same percentage voted this time, he said, there would be at least 23,422,264 votes counted, a difference of 3,272,104 from the official count.16
As far as we can tell, Professor Weinstein was not asked at the press conference if the 90% turnout in 1984 was due to ballot box stuffing and multiple voting, which became extremely difficult under the rules and safeguards established for the presidential election. Nor was he asked why 3,272,104 disenfranchised Filipinos did not complain to anyone, as far as we can tell. Election day reports suggested about 2% of voters showing up were being turned away because their names were not on the registration lists. And the official registration lists cited by Professor Weinstein could not even have involved that 2%, or they would have been permitted to vote.
"To demonstrate the fraud," The New York Times reported, Professor Weinstein discussed other documents, including two "precinct tally sheets" from a pro-Marcos area. They had been signed by workers of both parties, he said, and in one case showed Marcos winning by 75 to 60, yet the National Assembly count showed him with 440 to 60. The other showed him winning by 51 to 41 at the local level, but by 201 to 41 at the top.
This anecdotal evidence, of course, supports the opposite conclusion of what Mr. Weinstein intends. It demonstrates the effectiveness of the election safeguards: Every precinct tally can be matched against the National Assembly tallies, as was done in these two instances. The American observation teams, in fact, followed their precinct tallies up to the provincial level and found no discrepancies. They only await the publication of the National Assembly tallies to see if what Mr. Weinstein found in two instances could be proven systematically. We wondered if the reporters at the press conference realized that the two methods of fraud Mr. Weinstein discussed were unrelated, that the first would involve great subtractions from the vote totals, the second would involve great additions.
The NAMFREL poll-watching group identified with the Aquino party also alleged that their tallies in many cases disagreed with the official tallies of the National Assembly, mainly in opposition areas, and this contributed substantially toward changing the "margin, if not the outcome, of the election." The group "disclosed figures showing that Aquino had lost tens of thousands votes in the assembly's official canvassing," The Washington Post reported.17 Note, "tens of thousands." The Post story also mentioned that Mr. Weinstein had met for 2 1/2 hours with Marcos "and received documents and photographs that Marcos said prove his claim that the opposition was to blame for most of the election fraud and violence." These details were not reported, though, nor did the Times or Post appear to ask the election officials for their versions of the discrepancies. The guilty defendant was never asked to take the witness stand.
The picture of Marcos' vote rigging was firmly implanted when three dozen computer operators dramatically walked off their jobs during the vote count, complaining the numbers they were supplying election officials were not the numbers being chalked on the tally board. More than any other incident, this turned opinion in the U.S. Congress against Marcos, the "smoking gun" as many put it.
The incident seemed bona fide, although it struck me as curious that a seemingly non-political group of clerical workers would take this militant action — when their leader could easily have gotten the remedy, if indeed there was a genuine complaint, by threatening the walkout. It also struck me as odd that a computer worker wouldn't realize that the numbers on an election tally board are unofficial anyway, and anyone who has ever watched election returns on television knows tallies are different on every network. Marcos, in television interviews, seemed baffled by the incident, seemingly a tempest in a teapot, pointing out that the tallies could be easily checked and verified.
A week later, the incident made more sense when William Branigin of The Washington Post reported that the leader of the walkout was the wife of a leading reformist officer, the anti-Marcos faction of the Philippine army that was involved in the February 22 mutiny. "Linda Kapunan, 33, the wife of a reformist colonel, said [Col. Pedro] Baraoidan [director of the National Computer Center] was involved in altering computer printouts of vote totals to show Marcos in the lead. Baraoidan has denied the charge and accused the employes of being 'hard-core opposition' members out to 'sabotage' the vote count."18
* * * * *
Is Marcos capable of fraud? The question is answered in the public mind by the disclosure in The New York Times of January 23, two weeks before the election, that "The Army concluded after World War II that claims by Ferdinand E. Marcos that he had led a guerrilla resistance unit during the Japanese occupation of his country were 'fraudulent' and 'absurd.' "19 The front page story was instant dynamite news, creating the impression that the entire foundation of Marcos's political career was a fraud, fraud of the worst kind — falsely claiming heroism in a war in which tens of thousands of American boys died in liberating the Philippines under General MacArthur.
The document alleging fraudulence may in fact be genuine. But it doesn't quite say what the American public or members of Congress think it says. It does not say that Marcos was not a genuine war hero. Indeed, in the body of the Times account it is pointed out that:
In the Philippines, the 68-year-old Mr. Marcos is widely described as the nation's most decorated war hero. The Philippine Government says he won 32 medals for heroism during World War II, including two from the United States Army. Two of the medals were for his activities as a guerrilla leader, but the rest were for exploits before the United States surrender in 1942 or after the return of United States forces to Luzon, the main Philippine island, in 1945. . . .
The issue of Mr. Marcos's medals is not addressed in the Army records. [emphasis added]
What the Times story says, and only says, is that the Army rejected Marcos's claim in 1948 that the "Ang Mga Maharlika Unit" was entitled to back pay for guerrilla activities during the war. The documents do not say that Marcos did not lead Maharlika! The document disputing the unit, by Captain Elbert R. Curtis, states that the unit "is fraudulent" that "no such unit ever existed." Yet the Times says "Another Army document said Maharlika 'possessed no arms prior to the arrival of the Americans' despite Mr. Marcos' claim. . . ." That is, the unit did exist, but prior to January 1945 it possessed no arms. The Times also notes yet another document in which "the Army did recognize 111 people listed on Mr. Marcos's Maharlika roster for their service to American forces after January 1945. . . "
Thus the issue, clear to any objective reader, is not whether Marcos led a guerrilla unit during the war, but whether the unit possessed arms prior to January 1945. Newsweek, which led the press corps in asserting Marcos's guilt in its news columns, was also out in front in stretching the Times story over Marcos's "chestful of medals":
Just before the Times published its revelations, opposition candidate Corazon Aquino accused the president "of trying to cover up his cowardice with a salad of military decorations, none of which he ever earned in the field of honor." In fact, the U.S. Army awarded Marcos the Distinguished Service Cross — America's second highest military decoration — for "extraordinary heroism" in 1942. Nonetheless, more than a third of the president's Philippine medals were awarded long after the war.. . .20
Thus it seemed Mrs. Aquino knew what was in the Times revelations even before Marcos did. And we wondered why the Times reporters failed to mention the fact that Marcos had been awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, an honor not tossed around lightly by the U.S. Army. The Times noted in the fifth paragraph of its January 23 expose that "Mr. Marcos declined today to respond to six written questions about the United States Government records, which came to light only recently. The questions were submitted to Mr. Marcos's office this morning in Manila."
Marcos never had a chance to answer any questions put to him by the Times Manila bureau, it turns out:
An official release distributed by the Philippine Embassy in Washington yesterday quoted Mr. [Gregorio] Cendana [Minister of Information] as denouncing the New York Times' claim that the president declined to respond to six written questions about the U.S. government records.
"The Times, through correspondent Seth Mydans in Manila, gave us until 7 a.m. today [Jan.24] to respond to six questions submitted, in fact, when the story had already appeared in the Times issue of Jan.23. 21
Finally, on the matter of the central issue involved in the Times story, whether Maharlika existed prior to January 1945, we find in The Washington Post "Letters to the Editor" column of February 15 a letter from Austin J. Montgomery, Brig.Gen. U.S. Army (Ret.), Alexandria, Va., which states in part:
In the waning days of World War II, Ferdinand Marcos was attached to Col.(U.S.Army) Russell Volkmann's Northern Luzon Guerrilla Forces and subsequently rejoined the Philippine Army. This is contained in a file in the National Archives that otherwise seeks to disprove his claim of ever having led a guerrilla unit (the Maharlika).
Additionally, what is uncontestably a prime source document, Vol.1 (Intelligence) "The Resistance Movement in the Philippines," published by Gen.MacArthur's headquarters, lists Marcos by name in at least two places as having been the commander in 1943 of the Maharlika (the Nobles), a guerrilla unit recognized as such in that document. 22
Having reviewed this matter of Marcos's war record, we return to the question: Is Marcos capable of fraud? Perhaps he is, but if the Times story had not appeared on the threshold of the election, the mindset of the nation and especially of the Beltway would have been different, much less ready to believe he would commit electoral fraud and risk plunging his nation into civil war. We honestly do not suspect the motives of the Times editors, but have come to suspect the Times and other major print media have been manipulated by the anti-Marcos forces in the U.S. Government, particularly the State Department. The Times and other U.S. print media were similarly maneuvered by President Kennedy's State Department in 1963 into creating a climate that invited the assassination of South Vietnam's President Ngo Dinh Diem.
* * * *
If we were in the State Department and wanted to get a story discrediting Ferdinand Marcos on the front page of The New York Times, we would probably select Joel Brinkley, a Pulitzer Prize winner who in April 1984 wired together an account of top-to-bottom CIA control of Costa Rica and who in June of 1984 wrote a series of front-pagers for the Times warning of an imminent U.S. invasion of Nicaragua. Brinkley was, with Jeff Gerth, author of the January 23 front-pager on Marcos's war record. The following day he was all alone with the Times lead story of the day:
U.S. VOICES FEARS
FRAUD COULD MAR
SENATORS ALSO SKEPTICAL
Furor in Congress Over Role
of Marcos in World War II
—Inquiry on Records
By JOEL BRINKLEY
Washington,Jan.23-Senior Administration officials and members of Congress expressed serious concern today over whether Philippine presidential elections Feb.7 would be fraudulent.
Assistant Secretary of State Paul D. Wolfowitz, the senior State Department official involved in Philippine affairs, said that if President Ferdinand E. Marcos did not permit free elections, "it will substantially worsen the situation there." Mr. Wolfowitz added, "People will turn to radical alternatives, specifically the Communists."
He said the Administration was upset by recent developments, including the slayings of nine campaign workers and reports that "intimidation in a number of areas is growing."
Irregularities at the Ballot Box
Others who spoke at a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing said the United States had evidence that extra ballots might have been printed for stuffing ballot boxes; that the ink to be used for marking the ballots was not indelible, so votes could be changed, and that plans for computerized vote-counting had been dropped.
Senator Christopher J. Dodd, Democrat of Connecticut, said, "I don't see how we can expect anything but fraud, considering the lie about his military record that Marcos has been telling for almost 40 years." 23
These firmly implanted expectations of fraudulent elections left Marcos in a hopeless situation with public opinion in the United States. He had to lose for the election to be credible, and when it was clear he would be named the winner following the canvass of the National Assembly, his opponents inside the U.S. Government moved to cash in on the groundwork done to persuade public opinion, and ultimately President Reagan, that Marcos had to go. As in South Vietnam, the leader can not be brought down directly. The object is to persuade the Philippine military that if he remains, the United States will not support him and his war against the Philippine communist insurgency, and they will depose him as with the Diem scenario.
Once the editors of the nation's leading newspapers come to believe in Marcos's "guilt," their reporters in the field can't be expected to swim against the tide. But our general survey of the news did find a few reporters reporting against the tide.
The general broadbrush accounts of election violence left the impression that Marcos's "goons" were doing the killing and clubbing; Aquino campaign headquarters in Manila issued reports on murders of their campaign workers, and these made the news in the U.S. news media. The Washington Post, at least, included the official reports now and then:
So far, according to military figures, at least 95 persons have been killed in election-related violence in the last two months, 36 of them on election day, last Friday, and the weekend immediately afterward. The military says 30 of the victims belonged to Marcos' ruling party and 16 to the opposition, while the rest had no established political affiliation. However, military figures include persons killed by communist guerrillas killed in ambushes that may not be strictly related to the election. 24
The Catholic Church in the Philippines was another big factor in persuading U.S. opinion that Marcos was the villain, the Church openly supporting Aquino. Jaime Cardinal Sin, who is close to Mrs. Aquino, said Sunday mass before the elections wearing yellow and green vestments, the Aquino colors. 25 The Catholic bishops, at least some 50 of the 120 members of the Bishops Conference, agreed on a statement condemning the fraudulence of the vote that was read from the church pulpits.The statement essentially repeated the disenfranchisement charges of the Aquino people. 26 Pope John Paul II "issued a carefully worded statement in response to questions on the Vatican's position," The New York Times reported from Rome. "Given the delicate nature of the overall situation, the Holy See cannot but rely on the bishops' knowledge of the situation ...." The story also pointed out that the "Pope has sought to walk a careful line on the Philippines, defending human rights and implicitly criticizing the Marcos Government, while at the same time urging priests and nuns to stay out of politics, an implicit rebuff to some left-wing elements in the Philippine church." 27 Here too there is more to the story than meets the eye.
While the Marcos opposition fueled the fraud and illegitimacy story in Manila, the State Department fueled its campaign against Marcos in Washington. "The position that the U.S. could save its interests in the Philippines only by shoving Marcos from power was pressed by two career public servants who held key national security roles in the Carter administration: [Michael] Armacost [Undersecretary for Political Affairs] and Morton L. Abramowitz, now head of the State Dept. intelligence and research with the rank of assistant secretary." 28
On February 14, the State Department thought it a good time to issue its annual human rights report: "The State Department said yesterday that Philippine government security forces engaged in murder and other serious human rights violations during 1985," The Washington Post reported. 29
On February 16, President Carter's assistant secretary of state for the Far East, Richard Holbrook, Armacost's close friend, said on CBS's "Face the Nation" that Marcos might be gone in 12 weeks. There was no reason to make such a statement except by way of encouraging the Marcos opponents to believe the Reagan Administration would be on their side in a showdown.
On February 17, Leslie H. Gelb of The New York Times, who was also a Carter assistant secretary of state, reported in a front page story that "Authoritative Administration officials said today that they expected high-level resignations from the Philippine Cabinet and financial institutions to increase pressure on Ferdinand E. Marcos to seek accommodation with the opposition. [They] . . . .insisted that the Administration was not promoting desertions from the Marcos camp, but was expecting them based on mounting evidence among Marcos supporters." 30
On February 18, The Wall Street Journal added its weight to the State Department campaign to promote the desertions it insisted it was not promoting. "U.S. officials and members of Congress now agree that U.S. interests in the Philippines would be best served if President Ferdinand Marcos leaves office through an orderly transition." Not a single U.S. official is named in the story, although the headline implies the consensus is unanimous and includes the President: "U.S. Officials Want Marcos to Step Down — Philippine Leader Has Lost Legitimacy Because of Voting Fraud, They Say." 31
President Reagan was not being cooperative. He ignored State Department documents urging him to assert fraud on the part of Marcos, instead remarking at his February 11 press conference that there seemed to be fraud "on both sides." Said Newsweek:
Whatever the reason, the damage was already done. Mrs. Aquino bitterly denounced Reagan as "a friend of democracy who chose to conspire with Mr. Marcos to cheat the Filipinos of their liberation." Just 30 minutes after Aquino released her angry remarks, Ambassador [Stephen] Bosworth slipped into her headquarters in Manila to reassure her that the president hadn't really meant what he had said. 32
The story went on to say she would await word from President Reagan's special emissary, Philip Habib [selected for the job by Secretary of State Shultz]. Habib, said Newsweek, "is an old Asia hand whose distaste for Marcos goes back almost 20 years."
The job was accomplished. On Saturday, February 22, the Minister of Defense, Juan Ponce Enrile, and the Acting Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces, Gen. Fidel Ramos, announced their resignations from the Marcos government "as a result of the fraud in the recent elections," the White House statement read. "They called on him to step down because his Government no longer has a popular mandate." 33
Had the State Department promoted this mutiny? Or had it simply happened as those senior officials told Gelb of the Times? We noticed in the Sunday Times of February 23, a comment by Rep. Stephen Solarz. Solarz, a liberal Democrat, has been leading the Marcos opposition on Capitol Hill. In December, he called hearings of his foreign affairs subcommittee on Asia to publicize third-party hearsay about alleged billions of dollars in New York real estate the Marcos's own. (To its credit, the press made it clear Solarz had nothing to hang his story on.)
Representative Stephen J. Solarz, Democrat of Brooklyn, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs subcommittee on Asia, said he was not surprised by the Enrile-Ramos move because last April at a breakfast he had with both men at the home of the American Ambassador to Manila, Stephen Bosworth, both of them told him that they agreed with his criticism of the Filipino military. They both complained that Mr. Marcos had refused to take the steps needed to reform the military. 34
That afternoon, President Reagan came close to pulling the plug on Marcos, announcing suspension of military aid if it would be used against popular military forces. Later, he finally bowed to his advisers and asked Marcos to step down.
Nobody could say for sure what would happen.
When President Kennedy pulled the plug on South Vietnam's Diem, more than 50,000 American boys went down with him. I've thought of this throughout the several-week project that resulted in this paper. I have not yet discussed this particular concern with my 16-year-old son Matthew, and I hope I never have to.
* * * * *
1 Seth Mydans, "Aquino Says if She Is Elected Marcos Faces a Murder Trial," The New York Times, Dec. 16, 1985, p.1.
2 Harry Anderson, et al., "Reagan's Double Take," Newsweek, Feb. 24,1986, p.16.
3 Editorial, "The Vital Vote in Manila," The New York Times, Feb. 5,1986, p.A26.
4 John Burgess, "Aquino Rally Marks Risky Shift in Tactics," The Washington Post, Feb.16,1986, p.A34.
5 Seth Mydans, "Aquino Proposes Nonviolent Moves to Depose Marcos," The New York Times, Feb. 17, 1986, p.A-1.
6 William Branigin, "Leftists Moving Toward Aquino," The Washington Post, Feb. 15, 1986, p.A20.
7 Seth Mydans, "Both Sides Claim They Are Leading in Philippine Vote," The New York Times, Feb. 8, 1986, p.1.
8 Article, "The Election That May Refuse to Stay Stolen," The Economist, Feb. 15, 1986, p.32.
9 I.A. Lewis, "In the Philippines, a Pollster Doesn't Wait for Unpopular Answers," Los Angeles Times, Feb. 6, 1986, Pt.ll, p.5.
10 Clyde Haberman, "Marcos, Warning Foes, Deplores 'Intervention'," The New York Times, Feb. 20, 1986, p.A-8.
11 Mortimer Zuckerman, "End of an Era," U.S.News & World Report, Feb. 24, 1986, p.76.
12 Graphic, "Steps in Philippine Election" USA Today, Feb. 11, 1986, p.4-A.
13 Mark Fineman, "Critical Final Count Begins in Legislature," Los Angeles Times, Feb. 11, 1986, p.1.
14 June Kronholz and Anthony Spaeth, "Vote Weakens Marcos, But He Retains Office," The Wall Street Journal, Feb. 10, 1986, p.1.
15 Article, "Ghosts, Stuffing and Delible Ink," The Economist, Feb.15, 1986, p.32.
16 Bernard Gwertzman, "U.S. Adviser to Manila Vote Observers Gives Details of Fraud," The New York Times, Feb. 22, 1986, p.4.
17 William Branigin, "Namfrel: Millions 'Disenfranchised" The Washington Post, Feb. 19, 1986.
18 William Branigin, "Probe of Philippine Vote Set by Reformist Officers," The Washington Post, Feb. 17, 1986, p.A-34.
19 Jeff Gerth and Joel Brinkley, "Marcos's Wartime Role Discredited in U.S. Files," The New York Times, Jan. 23, 1986. p.A1.
20 Harry Anderson, et al., "The Maharlika Papers," Newsweek, Feb. 3, 1986, p.25.
21 Edward Neilan, "What Are Motives of Marcos Critics?," The Washington Times, Jan. 24, 1986, p.8A.
22 Letter to the Editor, "Where Was Mr. Marcos?," The Washington Post, Feb.15, 1986, p.A26.
23 Joel Brinkley, "U.S. Voices Fears Fraud Could Mar Philippine Voting," The New York Times, Jan. 24, 1986, p.A1.
24 William Branigin, "Aquino Supporter Killed; Election Violence Mounts," The Washington Post, Feb. 14, 1986, p.A34.
25 Article, " 'The People's Power,' " Newsweek, Feb. 24, 1986, p.18.
26 John Burgess and William Branigin, "Catholic Bishops Condemn 'Fraudulence' Of Philippines' Vote," The Washington
Post, Feb. 15, 1986, p.A1.
27 E.J. Dionne, Jr., "Pope Urges Philippine Peace After Backing Bishops' Stand," The New York Times, Feb. 17, 1986,
28 Rowland Evans & Robert Novak, "State Department Split Over Philippines," New York Post, Feb. 21, 1986.
29 John M. Goshko, "Human-Rights Report Critical of Philippines," The Washington Post, Feb. 14, 1986, p.A30.
30 Leslie H. Gelb, "U.S. Sees Marcos Losing High Aides," The New York Times, Feb. 17, 1986, p.1.
31 Frederick Kempe, "U.S.Officials Want Marcos To Step Down," The Wall Street Journal, Feb. 18, 1986, p.37.
32 Harry Anderson, "Reagan's Double Take," Newsweek, Feb. 24, 1986, p.18.
33 Text, "White House Statement," The New York Times, Feb. 23, 1986, p.17B.
34 Bernard Gwertzman, "White House Signals Its Support for 2 Military Men in Philippines," The New York Times,
Feb. 23, 1986, p.17B.