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Free Philippines Vital, Shultz Says : So Important That 'Every Man Is a Filipino,' He Asserts

June 17, 1987|NORMAN KEMPSTER | Times Staff Writer

MANILA — Secretary of State George P. Shultz, wearing a doll with the likeness of President Corazon Aquino on his lapel, declared Tuesday that preservation of the embattled democracy of the Philippines is so important that "every man is a Filipino."

Shultz, making his third trip to the Philippines since Aquino ousted Ferdinand E. Marcos' dictatorial regime 16 months ago, offered Washington's unqualified support for Aquino's efforts to quell a Communist rebellion and repair the nation's hard-pressed economy.

In a speech after a lavish luncheon in his honor at the presidential palace, Shultz said the cause of Philippine democracy means as much to the world as the freedom of West Berlin, where President Reagan last week echoed the words of President John F. Kennedy, who said a generation ago, "I am a Berliner."

"This message also could read: 'Every man is a Filipino,' " Shultz said. "The free peoples of the world are all with you, for they sense that the mission on which this country has launched itself has meaning for us all."

In his speech and a press conference, Shultz expressed total support for Aquino and her policies. He even said that Washington has no objection to the emergence of anti-Communist vigilante groups in the Philippine countryside as long as Aquino accepts them.

The vigilantes have become a controversial issue because they use force, sometimes including executions, to counter Communist activities. Some of the groups have been accused of violating the human rights of civilians not directly connected with the Communist New People's Army. But Shultz expressed no reservations.

Support for Aquino

"As far as the citizens' groups are concerned," he said, "as I understand it, these are being organized within the framework of governmental authority. . . . President Aquino has supported that approach and we support what she is standing for."

Aquino has been somewhat equivocal in her treatment of the groups, first denouncing them and then expressing understanding for the reasons civilians take up arms against the insurgents.

A senior State Department official said earlier that the vigilante movement was "fine as long as it is kept under (government) control." He conceded that there might have been abuses but added that "we can't look at every single one of them."

Shultz opposed the idea, backed by some Filipino legislators he met Tuesday, of changing the terms for American use of Clark Air Base and Subic Bay Naval Base here, Washington's largest overseas installations. Some Filipino legislators want the present mutual security pact to be changed to a simple rental arrangement. Negotiations begin next year on a new treaty.

"I don't think that's a good concept," Shultz said at the press conference. "The idea is that the presence of the U.S. forces is viewed by the countries involved as a contribution to the stability in that part of the world.

"It is something that should be mutually beneficial," while a rental agreement, he said, would suggest one country's benefiting at the expense of the other.

Several participants said he was even more blunt in a private session with newly elected members of the Philippine Congress.

According to Sen. Ramon Mitra, "Secretary Shultz said--and I think this is one of the strongest statements he has made--that when the day comes that you don't want us here but you are willing to rent this area as bases, then we don't want to be here."

Wears Aquino Doll

Throughout the day, both in private meetings with officials and in public appearances, Shultz wore on his lapel the doll representing Aquino and her "people power" revolution. Clearly visible on it was the inscription, "I Cory."

It was an almost unprecedented display of support for the Philippine president.

Aquino has been accused by some segments of the Philippine press of being too undiscriminating in her friendship for the United States. But Shultz was so effusive in his praise of Aquino that one of the Philippine guests at the lunch was overheard telling another in a stage whisper, "sipsip," a phrase in the Tagalog language that is politely translated as "boot licker."

Shultz met privately for about an hour with Aquino and her most influential aide, Teodoro Locsin Jr. Earlier, Shultz conferred with Defense Minister Rafael Ileto and the military chief of staff, Gen. Fidel V. Ramos, about plans for combatting the insurgency.

In his press conference, Shultz expressed confidence that the military has turned the corner after years of human rights abuses and ineffective combat.

Military on Offensive

A senior U.S. official said the Philippine military is starting to take the offensive against the insurgents, although he said the fighting is at a relatively low level.

Shultz and Solita Monsod, secretary of economic planning, signed an agreement calling for $176 million in U.S. aid to the Philippines. The funds are part of more than $350 million in economic aid voted by Congress for the Philippines for the fiscal year that ends Sept. 30.

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