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Aquino Shifts Cabinet as 9 Quit to Campaign

March 09, 1987|MARK FINEMAN | Times Staff Writer

MANILA — Philippine President Corazon Aquino appointed four new Cabinet secretaries today as the first step in a major revamping of her government after the resignations of nine Cabinet aides who are running for national office this year.

The appointments represent the interests of both conservative big business and the nation's left-leaning social democrats.

The two most important appointments were businessman Carlos Dominguez, as secretary of agriculture, and Fulgencio Factoran, Aquino's liberal deputy executive secretary, as secretary of natural resources, which oversees all mining, logging and other rural development.

Longtime Marcos Foes

Aquino also swore in Sedfrey Ordonez as secretary of justice and Ramon Diaz as head of the presidential commission that is hunting down wealth believed to have been illegally acquired and hidden away by deposed President Ferdinand E. Marcos and his aides. Both appointees are longtime Marcos opponents who have been among Aquino's more avid moderate supporters.

The new officeholders replace top Aquino aides who have chosen to run for either the national Senate or House of Representatives in a two-month election campaign that also began today.

Aquino, who was scheduled to kick off the campaign in a big political rally later this afternoon, is expected to replace her five other resigning Cabinet secretaries later this week.

Effect on Government

Critics have charged that Aquino's decision to permit her most important Cabinet officers to run in the elections will further weaken her administration, which has had difficulty in the last year delivering government services to the nation's rural areas.

Aquino's selection of largely technocratic replacements for those men represents an attempt to minimize the impact of so sweeping a change in her government, several of her aides said.

Political analysts here also applauded the president's appointments as an attempt to maintain her government's delicate political balance, at a time when the nation's political left and right continue to polarize over the issue of ending an armed Communist rebellion.

Harsh Criticism

Aquino's Cabinet announcement came just 24 hours after she delivered one of her harshest criticisms yet of the 18-year insurgency, an apparent effort to justify her military's renewed counteroffensive against the rebels.

The rebel leaders, she said, lost "the hopes and trust of the people" during last year's civilian-backed military coup that overthrew Marcos and brought Aquino to power.

After the populist rebellion, Aquino declared, "the battle for hearts and minds was won here a year ago."

In her anti-Communist speech, which Aquino delivered before an "artillery association" of the nation's armed forces, Aquino likened the insurgents to the Marcos regime and described the Communist leaders as "those who would subvert our freedoms and return us to slavery."

'Lost Its Heart and Soul'

"The stubborn Communist insurgency has lost its heart and soul . . . the hopes and trust of the people."

In recent statements, the Communist party leadership has charged that the Aquino government is becoming no different from that of Marcos, who ruled the country for two decades.

Antonio Zumel, a top leader of the Communist front group, the National Democratic Front, declared in a recent statement that the Aquino government is far too close to the Reagan Administration in its policies and that Aquino's recent offer of amnesty to surrendering rebels is "a sheer farce."

The party leadership said in a March 3 statement that its military wing, the New People's Army, "would never surrender the people's hard-won gains made at the cost of so many lives and so much sacrifice."

The Aquino government, the party said, is "plotting the isolation and consequent destruction" of the Communist movement, and it accused the president of "malice, duplicity and callousness."

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