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Lugar Panel Stops Short of Charging Widespread Philippine Vote Fraud

February 11, 1986|United Press International

WASHINGTON — Sen. Richard G. Lugar's team of U.S. observers reported to President Reagan on evidence of government interference in the Philippine election today but stopped well short of charging widespread fraud.

Lugar (R-Ind.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, who headed the team of election watchers, told reporters after a 35-minute meeting with Reagan that there is insufficient evidence to conclude that the balloting was rigged.

Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), another member of the observer team, said earlier that "every single member of the delegation came back disturbed--some shocked."

Interviewed on the "CBS Morning News," Kerry said the mission was "a very traumatic, emotional trip" and he added, "My hope is that the President and his Administration are going to take a tough line on this one."

Lugar offered a "gut political reaction" that the ballot count "was managed" and that a "quick count" established ahead of time by a citizen watchdog group and lauded by the United States was "aborted by government officials."

However, Lugar also emphasized several times that the official count--now in the hands of the Marcos-dominated National Assembly--continues and that no firm judgments, especially those that could affect U.S.-Philippine relations, should be made until the results are certified.

"Our advice, I think, to everybody--the government or the opposition--would be to count fair and square," Lugar said. "There's still that ability to handle that."

Lugar also said he understood that President Ferdinand E. Marcos "was sending out emissaries" to consult the opposition, led by challenger Corazon Aquino, "and I presume that one thing he was trying to find out was what is the price for peace."

Another election watcher, Rep. John P. Murtha (D-Pa.), said that while the observers saw "widespread incidents" that cast doubt on the fairness of the election, he and Lugar, echoing a view offered Monday by the Administration, stressed the importance of the vote itself to the promotion of democracy in the Philippines.

Speaking Monday to out-of-town journalists, Reagan said he wanted to hear "whatever evidence" Lugar had but he insisted that the fairness of the election was "for the people of the Philippines to decide and not for us to interfere."

"I think that what we have to watch for is that, in spite of all these charges, there is at the same time the evidence of a strong two-party system now in the islands," Reagan said.

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