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The Election in the Philippines

February 17, 1986

Whoever it was who called Ferdinand Marcos the greatest sleight-of-hand artist in the business is proving to be correct.

I now begin to see why Marcos agreed to hold his "snap election" at the time of his worst unpopularity. It wasn't just that he felt he could juggle the vote count, but more important, he felt that he had enough military force at his command to crush the opposition, thanks to military aid already received from the United States, and by repeated references to the American bases could expect that aid to continue in spite of everything.

With the vote counting commission stacked in his favor, even the seemingly open admission of cheating, such as Marcos' apparently lame attempt to justify a vote count in a certain precinct of 13,000 for Marcos to zero for Aquino, a clear impossibility, has its purpose. It shows that he has the will as well as the means to stay in power under all conditions and any attempt to get rid of him would start a civil war that would give the communist guerrillas their chance.

The Reagan Administration could, of course, puncture his balloon by exerting persuasive pressure on him as it did with Jean-Claude Duvalier in Haiti. After all, Marcos is reputed to be quite ill and is likely to be removed anyway by a power that no one can oppose. But even there, with the Rev. Jerry Falwell on his side, what miracles he might yet achieve in dealing with even the Highest Authority!

DON L. HEAD

Los Angeles

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