Reagan Calls on Marcos to Quit; 500,000 Defy Curfew : Philippine Leader Says His Family 'Cowers in Terror'

February 24, 1986|From Times Wire Services

President Reagan today for the first time called on teetering Philippine strongman Ferdinand E. Marcos to step down, while in Manila about 500,000 civilians defied a curfew to form a human shield around the camp of rebel officers who proclaimed Corazon Aquino president.

As Marcos called on supporters to report to him with guns and vowed to fight "to the last drop of blood," the Reagan Administration made clear that it was ready to offer him asylum in the United States.

In a statement personally approved by Reagan at about 5 a.m., the Administration said: "Attempts to prolong the life of the present regime by violence are futile. A solution to this crisis can only be achieved through a peaceful transition to a new government."

Within hours of Reagan's appeal, troops loyal to Marcos opened fire on protesters outside his palace. Doctors said four protesters were wounded in the shooting, which lasted several minutes and erupted after firecrackers were set off in a crowd of about 2,000.

Pools of blood and spent cartridges littered the street. The shooting was the first time troops loyal to Marcos opened fire on civilians since top defense officials began their rebellion Saturday.

Fighting Near Airport

Fighting also broke out near the airport as Marcos tried to mobilize his dwindling forces for a counterattack, proclaimed a state of emergency and imposed a dusk-to-dawn curfew in the nation he has ruled for 20 years.

The defiant Philippine leader said his family was "cowering in terror" in the presidential palace in fear of attack but declared: "We have no intention of going abroad. We have no intention of resigning. And we will defend to the last breath of our life and to the last drop of blood."

Marcos' address came over a commercial television station after the rebels took over the government station and pulled the plug during an earlier speech. (Story on Page 2.)

Marcos said he was still in control but urged supporters to bring guns to defend Malacanang Palace.

'A Matter of Survival'

"We have to put up our defenses. It is a matter of survival. I am fighting for survival. I am calling on all our loyalist friends to come to the Malacanang with their authorized guns in order that we too can show 'people's power,' " he said.

"I am also fighting for my life," Marcos added. "I am not going to place my life at the disposal of these mysterious characters.

"I hope they do not try our mettle and they don't try to attack the Malacanang because we are not kidding any more."

At a news conference earlier this month, Reagan blamed both sides for fraud in the Feb. 7 presidential elections. But the Administration's position shifted against Marcos during the last week and over the weekend Reagan apparently decided that Marcos had lost the popular vote to Aquino, who claimed victory and accused Marcos of stealing the election.

Aid Cutoff Threatened

On Sunday, Reagan threatened to cut off military aid to the Philippines if Marcos used government troops against the forces of Lt. Gen. Fidel Ramos, acting chief of staff, and Defense Minister Juan Ponce Enrile, who joined Aquino's opposition and led a rebellion against Marcos in her name.

But the Administration decided early today that the threat of no aid was not stern enough and suggested that Marcos step down.

While calling Marcos "an old friend and ally," the Administration all but offered a U.S. plane to whisk him to safe haven in the United States.

Asked if the Administration wanted to see Marcos step down before his inauguration, White House spokesman Larry Speakes said, "We're trying to precipitate it as quickly as we can."

Reagan did not talk by telephone with Marcos, but his views were relayed through diplomatic channels, said Speakes.

Vows to Be Reinaugurated

Marcos vowed to go through with plans to be reinaugurated Tuesday as he called on citizens to come to his palace with guns to defend him. Aquino said she too planned an inauguration Tuesday as head of a provisional government.

Aquino spoke to the huge crowd outside Camp Crame, where the leaders of the military revolt, Ramos and Enrile, barricaded themselves over the weekend along with fellow rebels.

"This is the first time in history that the civilian population has protected the military," she told the throng, estimated by reporters at up to 500,000. "Please keep vigil here."

Meanwhile, a private television station showed a group of about 200 Marcos supporters outside the presidential palace chanting support for the president, many brandishing photographs of Marcos and his wife, Imelda.

Answering a call by Ramos, hundreds of thousands of jubilant Filipinos had marched through Manila streets in a huge show of support for the rebellion against Marcos. They deserted shops, offices and factories to jam the roads around Camp Crame and prevent pro-Marcos troops from launching an attack.

Support for Aquino

Nearby, more than a dozen buses and trucks were packed with heavily armed troops who flashed the thumb-and-finger "L" sign of support for Aquino.

Ramos issued his call for supporters to ring Camp Crame over the government television station seized by his men. People left homes and workplaces, packed boxes of food, and headed for the suburb where the camp is located.

Normally busy offices and shopping centers in Makati, the financial hub of the capital, emptied as the crowds streamed toward Camp Crame. Singing, dancing and waving the yellow flags of Aquino, they joined the thousands who had formed a human shield around the camp.

Cars, trucks and buses were stalled in the streets as makeshift barricades. The mood in Manila changed from apprehension to celebration as Channel 4, the captured television station, relayed frequent reports of defections to the rebels by senior government officials and military detachments.

In the streets, cars, taxis and buses were decorated with yellow ribbons signifying support for Aquino. Many drivers sounded a "Co-ry" double blast on their horns.

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