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'Manila: the Gathering Storm'

March 29, 1985

All of us should be concerned with the well-being and the future of the Philippines, especially American servicemen like myself who fought alongside the Filipino soldier who stood up for America and sacrificed his life in defense of the U.S. flag, of freedom, and of democracy.

In my case, I had the good fortune to serve under then Maj. Ferdinand E. Marcos and with U.S. armed forces in the Far East units under him, which dealt a crippling blow to the Japanese Imperial Forces, culminating in the surrender of Gen. Tomoyoki Yamashita in Mt. Province, island of Luzon, Philippines.

You talk of sanctions against Marcos in your editorial (March 18), "Manila: the Gathering Storm," as if the United States had no debt of gratitude to this misunderstood and much-maligned world leader. Worst yet, you advocate meddling in the internal affairs of the independent and sovereign Philippines as though we were dealing with another banana republic.

Let me remind fellow Americans that Marcos is not as bad as liberals paint him. Let's face it. At the present time, there is no alternative to Marcos. He is doing everything humanly possible to lift his country up from its bootstraps, from a global recession not of his making and a domestic political furor that caught him as innocent bystander. The divided and disjointed opposition in the Philippines can't get its act together and come up with a credible and competent leader to supplant Marcos.

The U.S. government owes the Philippines rental for the use of two strategic bases--Clark Air Force Base and Subic Bay Naval Base--admittedly the biggest and most important in America's global defense network. Why don't we just go ahead and pay our obligations to bolster the Filipinos' capability to recover economically and to fight the insurgency that unfortunately afflicts so many Third World countries today?

All this talk about Washington pushing this general as permanent chief of the army is a lot of hogwash. If there is anybody who has instilled professionalism in the Philippine armed forces, it is Gen. Fabian C. Ver, the quintessential soldier, who rose from private, won battlefield commission as lieutenant during the liberation campaign, broke the Communist hierarchy in Luzon, and rose to four-star general. Ver, whose military career was inspired by an uncle, Maj. Anastacio Quevedo Ver, who graduated from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, Class of 1915, started the reforms to improve the Philippine military, and this accounts for the capture of most of the top-ranked insurgency leaders. If Marcos has indicated that he would restore Ver to his post once acquitted of charges in the Aquino case, it is the only honorable thing to do to vindicate the good name of a soldier.

That Marcos has strengthened democratic rights and institutions and restored political stability in the Philippines can best be gleaned from events of last year: free and unfettered parliamentary elections, independence of the judiciary, and the freedom of the press. No less than Secretary of State George P. Shultz has stated that the United States will continue to support Marcos and "will deal with him." Shultz said the May 1984 elections "turned out to be pretty good elections."

One does not undermine or do away with a tested friend and ally and hope that his successor will not turn out to be a Khomeini or a Castro.

LARRY O. GUZMAN

Los Angeles

Your editorial stated that Marcos is solely responsible for the erosion of democratic institutions in the Philippines. Your statement falls very short, for Marcos would not be able to rule 20 years without the backing of a strong country, the United States.

Indeed, the United States has continually supported Marcos, for he protects the former's interests, namely the Subic Naval Base and Clark Air Base, which are deemed critical to project naval and aerial power by the United States.

Marcos has received economic, military and political support for being loyal to the United States. Economically, the World Bank has given Marcos millions of dollars to bail him out or to give him some breathing space from the troubled Philippine economy, which was exacerbated after the assassination of the political opposition leader Benigno S. Aquino Jr. Militarily, the Reagan Administration promised Marcos that he would be receiving $900 million in five years, and that he could buy modern weaponry as a part of the military-bases agreement between the two countries. Politically, high ranking officials of the Administration have visited the Philippines and publicly gave Marcos support. For instance, Vice President George Bush once stated to Marcos, "We love you, sir, for your strict adherence to the democratic principles."

With all these facts and figures, should we blame Marcos alone for the erosion of democratic institutions in the Philippines?

JIMMY E. BALTAZAR

Los Angeles

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