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Aquino May Delay Local Elections as Congress Vote Count Lags

May 22, 1987|Associated Press

MANILA — President Corazon Aquino indicated Thursday that she may postpone the August local elections because of delay in resolving this month's balloting for a national Congress.

Teodoro Benigno, the president's spokesman, said she "agreed in principle" during a meeting with local officials that it might be wise to set the Aug. 24 local elections back to September or October.

He said Aquino decided to let the government election commission determine whether the vote should be delayed. Election officials have said they would prefer a postponement.

Elections of local officials and councils will complete Aquino's plan for restoring democracy in the Philippines, which was under the authoritarian rule of President Ferdinand E. Marcos for 20 years until he fled the country Feb. 26, 1986.

Filipinos overwhelmingly approved a new constitution in a plebiscite last February, a year after the civilian-military uprising that drove Marcos into exile and swept Aquino to power.

The election commission is not expected to complete its official tally of the May 11 vote for a U.S.-style Congress for at least several days and perhaps two weeks.

Violence forced voting to be delayed until May 30 in several precincts, including those in Sulu province, a predominantly Muslim area 600 miles south of Manila. Fighting between supporters of two rival candidates claimed six lives in the province.

With 60% of the more than 100,000 precincts counted, official figures showed Aquino's candidates leading for 22 of the 24 Senate seats.

Only two opposition candidates, both members of the center-right Grand Alliance for Democracy, were among the leaders: actor Joseph Estrada and Juan Ponce Enrile, whom Aquino fired as defense minister in November after accusations of coup plots by his followers.

Eighty-four candidates entered the Senate race, which consisted of one national ballot, and the seats go to the 24 with the most votes.

The president's choices were leading for 144 of the 200 seats at issue in the House of Representatives.

Enrile has filed a petition with the Supreme Court alleging large-scale fraud. Aquino acknowledges scattered incidents of cheating but denies massive fraud or government involvement.

In another development, Gen. Fidel V. Ramos, the armed forces chief of staff, said Aquino's opponents are trying to recruit former soldiers for another coup attempt. Ramos told reporters that any soldier joining a plot will be "dealt with administratively or even severely."

Ramos said national police were on maximum alert in Manila.

Ramos is widely credited with blocking at least five previous coup plots. He did not identify the alleged conspirators in the latest one.

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