CABARROGUIS, Philippines — Orlando Dulay was relaxing at his poolside cabana, playing with his pet rabbits, chatting with some small-time political bosses and military friends who had dropped in. He smiled as he discussed the charges of murder, kidnaping and torture pending against him.
Two days earlier, last Tuesday, the Supreme Court in Manila had ordered that Dulay be arrested immediately for "heinous" crimes against the people. But there he was, gregarious and articulate, the 52-year-old former governor, legislator, military commander and, as some say, "undisputed warlord" of Quirino province, beside his swimming pool with his friends.
Among the friends was Lt. Col. Jose Dalupines, the provincial military commander and the man who would be responsible for arresting Dulay. The colonel sat next to Dulay, sipping coffee and listening to his former commander's war stories, tales that have made Dulay legendary as an anti-Communist fighter. He had no plans to arrest Dulay that day, the colonel said.
"When the order comes from Manila, I will arrest him," Dalupines said. "It may take a week before that Supreme Court order reaches this place. Maybe not for 10 days, maybe not even then. The mails are not so good here in the Philippines."
Indeed, Dulay's arrest order may not arrive until after the May 11 election to establish a national legislature for the first time since President Corazon Aquino took power 14 months ago with the overthrow of Ferdinand E. Marcos' authoritarian government.
Friday, the day after the scene at the poolside, several Manila newspapers reported that Dalupines had reported to his headquarters that he had rearrested Dulay. But at noon the day of his supposed arrest, Dulay had still been smiling by his poolside as the colonel prepared to leave.
Although he faces three charges of murder related to the carnage that occurred in this northern province at the time of last year's presidential election, Dulay is himself a candidate. Moreover, the word in the barrios is that he may win. After all, he still controls the province.
Dulay is something of a symbol of the political system that kept Marcos in power for 20 years, a system largely unchanged despite Marcos' ouster. And he is just one among scores of Marcos-era politicians, some of them facing criminal charges ranging from graft to murder, who are nevertheless expected to win seats in the new Congress by using the traditional warlord politics of muscle, money and favors.
May Not Win Majority
Political analysts predict that Aquino's handpicked Senate candidates, helped by the president's personal popularity, will win at least 18 of the 24 seats in the Senate. But Aquino's top campaign strategists concede that she may fail to win a majority in the more powerful House of Representatives.
Paul Aquino, the president's brother-in-law and campaign director for People Power, her political party, predicted in a recent interview that right-wing opposition candidates are almost sure to win at least 70 of the 200 House seats.
The potential opposition victors include dozens of former Marcos officials. Besides Dulay, there is Jose Aspiras, a former minister of tourism and one of the men charged with engineering the 1983 assassination of Aquino's husband, Benigno S. Aquino Jr. Another is Ismael Mathay Jr., the former vice governor of Manila who was regarded as a protege of Marcos' wife, Imelda.
Further threatening Aquino's support in the lower house, which has the power under Aquino's new constitution to impeach the president and dissolve the Senate, are lingering doubts that all of the 122 candidates whom the president has endorsed will support her after the election. Eleven of these were members of Marcos' party.
These doubts are based partly on Aquino's failure to endorse a full slate of candidates in all 200 congressional races. In addition, pro-Aquino candidates are running against each other in many districts, where they will split the pro-administration vote and benefit the opposition.
Marcos Political Machine
Far more important, according to Paul Aquino and other analysts, is the Aquino administration's failure to dismantle the Marcos political machine, a network of feudal warlords and political bosses such as Dulay, and to instill a new political order in the country.
Campaign director Aquino said the president's expressed hope for a clean new electoral system will show itself in less than 20% of the congressional races, but "hopefully, within the next five years, all the other places will be infected by it."
In desolate Quirino, people say, five years will hardly make a dent in a system that seems almost as old as the barren Sierra Madre range that surrounds the province.