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Troops on Alert; Aquino Asks for Vote Landslide

May 10, 1987|MARK FINEMAN | Times Staff Writer

MANILA — The Philippines was put under military red alert Saturday, and President Corazon Aquino, appealing for support for her candidates in Monday's congressional balloting, predicted that the vote will be "the first honest and peaceful elections" in this country in more than 15 years.

The armed forces chief of staff, Gen. Fidel V. Ramos, announced the military alert and said that "there continue to be threats from the (Communist) New People's Army and other armed groups" that "may exploit the three-day period before, during and after election day."

Aquino Asks for Prayers

Aquino, addressing a final campaign rally that was nationally televised, asked this Roman Catholic nation to pray for members of her party running for a new 24-member Senate and 200-member House of Representatives in a campaign that pits her handpicked candidates against coalitions of both the strong political left and right.

Asking for a landslide victory, the president cited her own record during the 15 months since she took office from Ferdinand E. Marcos, calling herself "Auntie Thrifty" and declaring that her administration spent $8 million less during the first two months of this year than Marcos did in the two months before he was overthrown in February, 1986.

"My critics say, 'She doesn't know anything, she is weak, she does not move the economy,' " Aquino declared. "But I say to these people, I am thrifty. If you like the way I have run my administration in the last 15 months, if you trust Cory Aquino, I am pleading with you to elect all 24 of my candidates."

Aquino also appealed to the armed forces to remain neutral in the face of intelligence reports that a small group of military dissidents may be plotting an attempt to sabotage the nation's first congressional elections since Marcos proclaimed martial law in 1972.

In his announcement, Ramos said renegade soldiers still loyal to Marcos may be plotting election day violence to disrupt what the government hopes will be clean, honest, peaceful and credible voting. But he added that the numbers of dissidents are "diminishing."

50 Slain During Campaign

So far, at least 50 candidates, campaign leaders and soldiers have been killed in pre-election violence, Ramos said, noting that it was nevertheless a record low--less than a third of the death toll during last year's tainted presidential contest between Marcos and Aquino.

More than one-third of the nation's 1,600 municipal districts were declared "critical" or "sensitive" areas Saturday, and thousands of soldiers were deployed to 67 municipalities that Ramos said are considered "very critical"--areas where the threat of armed guerrillas has combined with intense political contests and a proliferation of firearms and private armies.

During a Saturday press conference, Ramos appealed to the 200,000 members of the armed forces to remain nonpartisan. He asked the 26 million Filipino voters "to remain calm and sober," and he called Monday's polls "an unprecedented opportunity to prove to ourselves and to the outside world the reality of the vigor and stability of Philippine democracy."

And as the final day of campaigning passed, Manila and most of the nation remained calm and festive.

Aquino was clad in her traditional yellow campaign dress Saturday night in downtown Manila when she personally closed her administration's lively but largely issue-free campaign.

Aquino Majority Predicted

Each of the president's 24 senatorial candidates, who are expected to win at least 18 seats in what analysts predict will be a landslide senatorial win for Aquino, took turns on the stage. Most of them had been detained or exiled under Marcos, and they spoke of the ghosts of the past, including the deposed dictator and the man who was once Marcos' most important political enemy, Aquino's husband, Benigno S. Aquino Jr.

Campaign aides said it was part of an effort to cast Monday's balloting as a classic battle between good and lingering evil in which personalities are all-important.

"In the crooked mind of Ferdinand Marcos, he's still the real president of the Philippines," shouted candidate Jovito Salonga, who spent many years in exile in Los Angeles. "If you don't want this, vote for the 24 senatorial candidates of President Aquino."

Candidate Raul Manglapus, another former exile who lived in Washington for 14 years, challenged the rightist opposition Senate slate led by former Defense Minister Juan Ponce Enrile, whom Aquino fired last November.

"Where were you (Enrile) in 1970 when we fought Marcos. . . ?" Manglapus shouted. "Were you with the nation or were you with Marcos?"

Voice Nationalistic Theme

Hoarse from intensive campaigning, the president's candidates also sounded a nationalistic theme.

Voters, Manglapus declared, should tell themselves as they cast their ballots, "I am a Filipino, and I am going to teach the world another lesson in democracy. . . . I am going to build a republic that is greater than America; greater than Japan."

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