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Dynasties Fading : Philippines' Vote Signals New Trends

January 21, 1988|MARK FINEMAN | Times Staff Writer

MANILA — A faith healer, an aging warlord, an accused coup plotter and several budding movie actors were declared sure winners Wednesday in local elections that President Corazon Aquino had called the last step in the return of full democracy to the Philippines.

The still-incomplete results from Monday's voting began to show several important political trends nearly two years after Aquino and the armed forces overthrew Ferdinand E. Marcos.

There were indications of an end to decades of dynastic politics, the beginnings of a new era of political maturity, a flat rejection of the president's personal political enemies and the possible start of a new era of relative political stability.

"This is a victory of the Filipino people, number one, and a victory for the government, number two," said Paul Aquino, the president's brother-in-law and campaign director for her political coalition.

Sees Voter Maturity

"The movie stars and TV personalities had a field day but, generally speaking, it shows a new maturity on the part of the Filipino voter."

Many of the mayors, governors and council members elected to the 16,454 offices at stake represent the old political families who dominated the country before Marcos. But voters flatly rejected several such candidates in key races.

The parties of Aquino's two most troublesome opponents--Vice President Salvador Laurel and the opposition leader in the Senate, Juan Ponce Enrile--overall went down to defeat.

And, more important, the Aquino-family candidates, who had been accused of trying to build a presidential family dynasty similar to that of Marcos, apparently also lost.

Aquino's sister-in-law, Mila Aquino-Albert, was badly beaten in her bid for the mayor's office in Quezon City, Manila's largest suburb, and a first cousin, Victor Sumulong, was still trailing today and expected to lose the governor's race in Rizal province, the country's richest.

'Rejection of Dynasties'

Senate President Jovito R. Salonga, citing the victory of his handpicked candidate over Sumulong, described the outcome as "a manifestation of the people's brewing revolt against political dynasties."

But Salonga, who as head of the newly powerful Liberal Party fielded a nationwide slate of candidates against those of the Aquino family, quickly added, "It was a rejection of the dynasties but not necessarily of Aquino."

Paul Aquino said the losses were actually a positive sign. "She never campaigned for any of the relatives," he said. "She did not raise a single finger for a relative, and they all lost. That is a good sign and an important one in establishing the credibility of this government."

'Skirt Tails' Important

Many political analysts agreed. Taking note of the thousands of winners who had been backed by the other two parties in Aquino's coalition, they concluded that the president remains popular and that her "skirt tails" are politically important. But they said the election results also show that the president is not as popular as she was when she took office almost two years ago.

"The Cory magic still seems to be working," the daily Manila Chronicle said Wednesday in an editorial. "Nonetheless, it appears no longer as potent. If anything, Monday's polls seem to be the people's way of repudiating the perpetration of a political dynasty centered on the president. Allowing more relatives to share presidential power as Ferdinand Marcos did would only dilute Aquino's ability to put this nation back in shape."

Perhaps the most important indication that Aquino and her party are beginning to succeed in ushering in a new political order are the results in the president's home province of Tarlac.

Appealed for Candidate

In a speech she delivered in the provincial capital last week, Aquino pleaded with her supporters to vote for an honest yet politically unknown candidate she was supporting against the political recommendations of her brother, her brother-in-law and her top political lieutenants.

"Please do not embarrass me here in my home province," the president said, appealing for support for Mar Ocampo, her handpicked candidate.

According to the latest returns, Ocampo was leading, and Aquino's campaign manager said he is expected to win.

But even Aquino's top supporters conceded that traditional local dynasties--the old families that ruled over much of the Philippines in the decades before Marcos came to power in 1965--have won in many local races.

"What we are seeing in the Philippines right now is transition," said one of the president's brothers-in-law, Sen. Agapito Aquino. "We are seeing the beginning of political change. And that kind of change is always a slow process."

There were indications of just how slow that process is in Ilocos Norte, the home province of former President Marcos. Among the clear winners there were Col. Rolando Abadilla, who is being held in a military prison in Manila awaiting trial on charges of trying to overthrow the Aquino government, and Rudolfo Farinas, a close friend of Marcos' son.

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