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U.S. Observer Team Calls for 'Credible Conclusion'

February 10, 1986|Associated Press

MANILA — President Reagan's observers at the Philippine presidential election said today that they have heard serious charges of election irregularities and appealed for "a credible conclusion without further delay."

Sen. Richard G. Lugar (R-Ind.), chairman of the 20-member group, said there is still "a small, glittering hope" that the race between President Ferdinand E. Marcos and Corazon Aquino could be fair.

But he added there could be "obviously serious" implications for U.S.-Philippine relations if the election proves to be unfair.

"We are pleading, I think, in a last-minute situation," Lugar said. "There is the last, delicate possibility the public will might come through, and we plead with all parties to try to make that so."

Earlier, Lugar accused Marcos and Marcos' supporters of trying to manipulate the election, which was held Friday. Results of the election still have not been determined.

Lugar, who is chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Rep. John P. Murtha (D-Pa.), a member of the observer group, said they will report to Reagan on their findings on Tuesday.

The delegation left the Philippines after a news conference, where the two leaders read a joint statement.

"Sadly . . . we have witnessed and heard disturbing reports of efforts to undermine the integrity of" the election process "both during the voting and vote-counting process which is still under way," said the statement, which was approved by all the delegation members.

The statement did not say the abuses were the fault of the government, but Lugar said, "Those who are in authority perhaps bear the heaviest responsibility."

A pro-Marcos crowd of about 200 Filipinos demonstrated outside the hotel, chanting and carrying signs calling on observers and the foreign press to leave. The motorcade carrying Lugar and the other American observers to the airport passed through the demonstration, but there were no incidents.

Although it has been three days since the election, Lugar said, "We don't even have any idea what the result of the election is."

Murtha said: "We have great concerns about what we have seen. But we know our job is to go back and report to the President and let the President and the Congress make the decision whether it's a fair election as decided by the Philippines people."

One vote count by an independent citizens group, the National Movement for Free Elections, put Aquino ahead, while a government count had Marcos in the lead. Lugar appealed for the two votes to be reconciled so that Philippine people could have confidence in the outcome.

The United States had given strong encouragement to the independent citizens group, and in the past two days, Marcos' government spokesman have accused that group of receiving financial support from the Central Intelligence Agency.

"That charge is ridiculous," Lugar said Monday. He said the citizen volunteers would be "the eyes and ears" of the observers after they left.

Delay in Reports

Both the Lugar group and an international delegation of observers have left behind staff members to continue providing reports on the election outcome. Both said they would issue final reports when results are known.

While Lugar said a flawed election would have an impact on U.S. policy toward the Philippines, he said he didn't want to speculate what the impact would be. He said that would be up to Reagan and Congress.

But a congressional source traveling with the group said U.S. aid to the Philippines would be in doubt.

The U.S. observers were not as forthright in their criticism of the Marcos government as were the international observers, who said in a statement Sunday night the abuses were serious enough to affect the outcome of the election.

Their statement said: "We saw many instances of vote-buying, attempts at intimidation, snatching of ballot boxes and tampered election returns."

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