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U.S. Reportedly Prepares to Send Observers to Philippine Election

January 16, 1986|From Times Wire Services

WASHINGTON — The Reagan Administration has tentatively decided to send a delegation of American observers to the Feb. 7 presidential election in the Philippines to underscore the Administration's interest in a free and fair election, U.S. officials and congressional sources said Wednesday.

The White House wants to send a delegation of about 20 members jointly headed by Sen. Richard G. Lugar (R-Ind.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Rep. Dante B. Fascell (D-Fla.), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said one official, who asked not to be identified.

But a congressional decision on whether to participate will depend in part on a hearing before Lugar's committee next Wednesday on steps to make sure the election is fair, an aide to the senator said.

About six other members of Congress also would be included. The White House also will name about 10 private citizens. The White House decision to send the delegation has been made "in principle" and will be announced Friday, barring any second thoughts, a State Department official said.

President Ferdinand E. Marcos, who may be facing the greatest challenge of his 20-year rule from opposition candidate Corazon Aquino, has said he would welcome such a delegation.

The decision has not been an easy one, especially in Congress, because of concern that the observers could be put in a position of having to say whether the election was fair without sufficient information to make that judgment.

In Manila on Wednesday, lawyers representing state-run television denied charges of unfair coverage of the election campaign, saying the rule of equal access to the media does not apply to President Marcos.

Aquino's chief counsel, Joker Arroyo, had lodged a complaint Tuesday with the Commission on Elections charging that the state-run Maharlika Broadcasting System and another television network had been covering the Marcos campaign but had not given the opposition the same coverage.

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