MANILA — Defense Minister Juan Ponce Enrile, whose outspoken criticism of President Corazon Aquino's policies has raised fears of a government crisis, said today, "We shouldn't fight the president because she is our president."
He made the remark in a speech to a Rotary Club lunch, where he was introduced as "the darling of the Rotary Club circuit."
He went on to say he is cutting back on speaking engagements "so as not to become a controversial figure."
The defense minister has been attacking the policies and legitimacy of the Aquino government--in particular her handling of the 17-year-old communist rebellion--at similar functions and at mass rallies around the country.
After the speech, he told reporters that President Reagan should stay out of his dispute with Aquino.
"I don't think the President of the United States, no matter how powerful he is, would want to involve himself in purely internal affairs of the Filipinos," Enrile said. "That would mean a lot of things for this country and our people."
He was responding to a question about a Thursday New York Times report that American diplomats in Manila had conveyed to Enrile the Reagan Administration's displeasure over his criticism.
Enrile said he had received no message from Reagan or any member of the Administration.