Tag Archives: ronald reagan

CIA Declassified: Civil war threatens Philippines


From: McWilliams, Rita. “Civil war threatens Philippines.” Washington Times. 24 February 1986. Available from: https://www.cia.gov/library/readingroom/document/cia-rdp90-00965r000504150013-6

Opposition to Marcos rises on Hill

Congress opposition to Filipino President Ferdinand Marcos yesterday as the Reagan administration threatened to cut off military aid to the Philippines.

On Capitol Hill, critics of the Marcos regime called not only for an end to military aid—$55 million this year—but for the resignation of Mr. Marcos, and asked President Reagan to make a personal request to Mr. Marcos to step down.

Some lawmakers said the Marcos regime has had almost no chance of survival since Mr. Marcos was declared the winner of a hotly contested and highly suspect Feb. 7 election.

“One of the things this administration does very will is implement their policy of democratic evolution or revolution, as the case may be,” Sen. David Durenberger, chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said yesterday in calling for Mr. Marcos’ resignation.

“I think this administration has known all along that at some point in time, the unique ability of Ronald Reagan and his personal touch would be a decisive factor in bringing peace to the Philippines,” he said.

Sen. Richard Lugar, the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee chairman who led the U.S. team that monitored the election, said the administration should encourage the Filipino leader to step down.

“President Marcos must come to the same conclusion our president arrived at … that given an election, of fraudulent results, no legitimacy, it’s difficult to see how this regime can continue,” Mr. Lugar said. “He’ll have to step down.”

The two lawmakers echoed themes that were prevalent yesterday on Capitol Hill: How can a free society, the leader of the free world, monitor an election, pronounce it fraudulent, and support the regime that perpetrated the fraud?

That question has been complicated because Mr. Marcos is an avid anti-communist who says he holds the key to keeping the U.S. military bases, essential to the support of non-communist nations, in the Philippines.

The Reagan administration, despite the pressure from Congress to immediately halt aid to the government, had put off action until U.S. special envoy Philip C. Habib, returned to Washington yesterday.

But after consulting with Mr. Habib, the White House announced last night it would cut military aid if it seems that the aid will be used against the Filipino people.

It was unclear whether Mr. Marcos would be given asylum in the United States as troops loyal to Mr. Marcos five miles from the presidential palace began tear-gassing anti-Marcos forces, according to reports from Manila.

“The only ones who can possibly benefit from massive bloodshed and perhaps civil war are the communists, and the only way to prevent bloodshed and possibly civil war at present time is for Mr. Marcos to step aside,” said Rep. Stephen Solarz, the New York Democrat who chairs the House Foreign Affairs subcommittee on Asian and Pacific Affairs.

Mr. Solarz believes asylum for Mr. Marcos should be given “only if he is going to step aside without plunging his country into a civil war,” a Solarz aide said last night in a telephone interview.

But forces, such as Sen. Jesse Helms, North Carolina Republican, and others who voted against a Senate resolution condemning the Feb. 7 election, said Mr. Marcos should be given asylum because he has been fighting communist forces that helped opposition candidate Corazon Aquino.

The House Foreign Affairs Committee, which was waiting for Mr. Habib’s return to vote on cutting off aid to the Marcos government, is expected to act quickly this week, and the measure is expected to fly through the House, to the Senate, where there is a chance that it may be filibustered by conservatives.

Conservative forces in the House have all but abandoned Mr. Marcos because of reports of election fraud.

Even Rep. Gerald Solomon, the New York Republican who has avidly supported the Marcos government as a “bastion against communism,” voted last week to cut off further aid to the regime.

The measure would place military aid in a trust fund and channel economic and humanitarian aid through charitable organizations such as the Roman Catholic Church.

Mr. Solarz, New York Democrat, said support for Mr. Marcos in Washington is “somewhere between nil and negligible.”

Georgia Sen. Sam Nunn, ranking Democrat on the Armed Services Committee, urged Mr. Reagan to offer asylum to Mr. Marcos only “if he steps down peacefully and if he does so immediately and if he does so without bloodshed.”

Sen. Larry Pressler, South Dakota Republican who serves on the Foreign Relations Committee, predicted bloodshed whether Mr. Marcos stepped down or nor. “What comes after Marcos could be much worse,” he said.

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CIA Declassified: Washington Turns Up Heat On Marcos


From: Nokes, R. Gregory. “Washington Turns Up Heat On Marcos,” 25 January 1986. Available from: https://www.cia.gov/library/readingroom/document/cia-rdp90-00965r000504790001-9

The drum-beat [sic] of revelations in the United States aimed at discrediting President Marcos in advance of the Feb. 7 election in the Philippines underscores how anxious Washington is to see him replaced.

In the past two weeks, there have been major stories alleging Marcos is in extremely poor health, that his claims to heroism during World War II are largely fraudulent and that he and his wife have salted away many millions of dollars in the United States.

They have come against a background of repeated official warnings from the administration that the election must be fair, which is another way of saying the administration thinks Marcos will steal the election if he could.

“If the White House had asked Bill Casey a year ago to devise a plan to get Marcos, he couldn’t have done better than this,” said a Pentagon analyst, referring to the director of the Central Intelligence Agency.

Officially, the administration is neutral in the campaign between Marcos and Corazon Aquino, the opposition candidate.

But interviews with officials who spoke on condition they not be identified disclose a virtually unanimous view that the Marcos government is rife with corruption and incapable of undertaking the political, military and economic reforms necessary to defeat a growing communist-led insurgency.

At stake for the administration, in addition to keeping the Philippines pro-West camp, are the largest U.S. military bases overseas—Subic Bay and Clark Field.

Some of the information aimed at discrediting Marcos comes from the many enemies Marcos has made in his 20 years of rule, especially in the large exile community in the United States, some of whom have fled for their lives.

But some of it also has originated from official sources. Rep. Stephen Solarz, D-N.Y., has been holding hearings before his House Subcommittee on Asian and Pacific Affairs on alleged U.S. investments of the Marcos family.

Whatever the origins of the information, the administration has made no effort to contradict or discourage the reports.

The State Department declined public comment on reports of Marcos’ ill health, while privately confirming them, and officials said they wouldn’t “second-guess” [sic] Army documents suggesting Marcos has falsified his war record.

With respect to evidence before the Solarz committee that Imelda Marcos, the president’s wife, might own Manhattan real estate worth $350 million, Paul Wolfowitz, the assistant secretary of state, said the government doesn’t keep track of such investments by foreigners because they would not be illegal.

But the State Department later revealed it had routinely and not-so-routinely investigated whether the Marcos government might have misappropriated U.S. foreign aid funds.

Spokesman Bernard Kalb said that while no evidence of wrongdoing had turned up so far, the investigation was not yet complete.

Reporters were reminded, too, that the Justice Department has been probing possible contract kickbacks involving the Philippine Military for the past year.

Relations hadn’t always been this bad between Marcos and the Reagan administration. Vice President George Bush praised Philippine democracy during a visit to Manila several years ago, and Marcos was warmly received at the White House.

Reagan had even planned to visit the Philippines in 1983, but the trip was quickly cancelled after Philippine opposition leader Benigno Aquino was murdered on his return from American exile in 1983.

Most officials said the murder of [Benigno] Aquino, husband of Corazon Aquino, as the watershed event that turned the administration against Marcos.

Marcos still could win, and the administration is prepared to deal with him if he does. It is sending an official team of observers to view the election.

Washington knows, as Marcos does, that the United States could not afford to abandon the Philippines to the communists just because Marcos were to win a flawed election.

It is with the communist threat in mind, as well as the wish to support democracy, that the administration is pressing for a fair election.

U.S. pressures have worked to some degree, according to a State Department analyst who said Friday. “It is looking more and more like it will be a moderately fair election.”

He said “the kicker” is whether an independent vote-monitoring group known as Namfrel will be able to conduct its own count for the vote on election day, to provide a back-up the government count.

Marcos still has’t approved, but Secreatry of State George P. Shultz is understood to have pressed Assistant Foreign Minister Pacifico Castro in a meeting here last week. The message, of course, is that the administration does not trust the Marcos government to produce a fair count.

Another example of U.S. pressure was the statement last week of Wolfowitz to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that a flawed election would be worse than no election, and would open the way to communist inroads as people turned to “radical solutions” to achieve the changes they could not achieve at the polls.

Left unsaid by Wolfowitz and other officials is the widely held private view that of many of them that the fairer the election, the better the chance Mrs. Aquino would win.

EDITOR’S NOTE: R. Gregory Nokes writes on diplomatic affairs for the Associated Press and has been focusing lately on the Philippines election.

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CIA Declassified: Dump Marcos


From: The New Republic, “Dump Marcos,” The New Republic, 27 November 1985. Available from: https://www.cia.gov/library/readingroom/document/cia-rdp90-00965r000807410005-0

When Senator Paul Laxalt, acting as President Reagan’s personal envoy, suggested to Ferdinand Marcos that he hold early elections, the answer was an equivocal no. When George Will made the same suggestion to the Philippine President a few weeks later, on the Sunday morning program, “This Week with David Brinkley,” Marcos was warming up to the idea. “I am decided that with these arguments coming from the opposition, and now in this show and interview, I’m ready. I’m ready to call a snap election,” Marcos told the stunned panelists.

Many viewers in the country saw Marcos’ announcement as a sign that he was giving in to demands from the U.S., and edging a little bit closer to democratic rule. But members of the Philippine opposition know their wily dictator far better. The promise of an election in fact means very little. Asked to explain his plan, Marcos said during the interview that the “snap election” should take place within 60 days. This would give the opposition little time to unite behind a single candidate, raise funds, and mount an effort to keep Marcos from buying or stealing the election, as he has often done in the past.

Since the television broadcast, Marcos has made several minor concessions that appear more significant than they are. He has said that he will hold election on February 7 instead of January 17. He has said he will resign, as the Philippine Constitution requires before a special election, but will not leave office. In the next few weeks, Marcos will probably accredit Namfrel [sic], the organization of volunteer poll watchers that was responsible for the relative fairness of the 1984 parliamentary election. But he is still demanding a list of poll watchers’ names so that he can bring the organization under his control. Between now and election, everything Marcos does will be calculated carefully to make it appear he is trying to be fair. But as Senate Intelligence Committee staff members who recently visited the Philippines put it in a rare public report, “Marcos, at this point, intends to do whatever is necessary to ensure a favorable outcome in the next election.”

Nevertheless, the various opposition groups are giving the election their all, in the hopes that Marcos can be pressured into meeting enough of their demands that he will lose. At the moment they are concerned with selecting a presidential candidate, who will probably be Corazon Aquino or former senator Salvador Laurel. Because of his isolation from reality, which a number of visitors have commented upon, Marcos may not realize how few supporters he has left. Most of his people are fed up with a failing economy, internal repression, and growing violence fostered by the communist New People’s Army (NPA). There is some hope that he will miscalculate and lose the election. But in the event that he manages to affirm his mandate, using his “considerable power to rig the elections at both the national and local levels,” as the Senate Intelligence Committee envisions, the United States will have to consider options other than that of continuing to prop up this sad, sagging tyrant.

If present trends continue, Assistant Secretary of Defense Richard Armitage estimates that the NPA will reach a strategic stalemate with the Philippine Army in three to five years. Senator Dave Durenberger, chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, thinks two to three years would be an optimistic estimate. Whatever their potential strength, the guerrillas have emerged as a real and present danger since Benigno Aquino was assassinated in 1983. There are now estimated to be more than 15,000 armed fighters in nearly all of the 73 Philippine provinces. The NPA is not currently backed by Moscow, and it apparently prefers to be nonaligned [sic]. But the Soviets are, to say the least, interested.

Marcos has us in a bind. Since he is the one fighting the NPA, the argument goes, we must step up military and order to keep them from winning. But giving Marcos guns won’t help. His army is badly organized, mismanaged, and riddled with corruption. His solution to the insurgency problem seems to be wishing it away. “They are surrendering in droves,” he recently told Ted Koppel in “Nightline,” insisting that he can quash the NPA within a year. His own generals have called the assessment ridiculous. In truth, there is little Marcos can do to oppose the guerrillas, since their rise is a direct result of 20 years of his repression. As long as he stays in office, while postponing military, political, and economic reforms, the chances of an eventual NPA victory will improve.

If the guerrillas succeed in waging a protracted civil war, it will be a tragedy for the 50 million citizens of the Philippines. It would also be a tragedy of sorts for the United States. Our two largest military bases outside U.S. borders—the Clark air base and the naval station at Subic Bay—are located in the Philippines. They are essential to our strategic capability in Southeast Asia. if we lost them (the leases expire in 1989, subject to renegotiation), we would be forced to monitor Soviet activity in the region from bases in Hawaii and Japan.

With the exception of Jerry Fallwell, reliable friend to tyrants in trouble, even most conservatives realize where the Philippines are headed if Marcos remains in power. Although the Reagan administration waited until the eleventh hour to get worried about the situation, it has backed the International Monetary Fund’s recent decision to cut off payments on loans until Marcos breaks up sugar and coconut monopolies run by his cronies, which have helped wreck the economy. Even Marcos’ friends are bailing out, transferring hundreds of millions in assets to the U.S. (See “Marcos’s [sic] Nest Egg,” October 7.) Sources in the CIA, the Pentagon, and the State Department have all been hinting darkly that Marcos’ plight is far more srious than anyone knows.

“The chances for a constitutional succession could be improved if Marcos died suddenly, as opposed to a lingering period of incapacitation,” the Senate Intelligence Committee wrote in the conclusion to its recent report. Indeed, the best solution would be if Marcos would agree to die right away. But we can’t count on his cooperation on this matter either. Rumors of his ill health and impending death from kidney failure have been greatly exaggerated for more than 20 years. Senator Durenberger recently proposed what would be an equally workable solution: that Marcos resign. Unfortunately, it is equally unlikely.

It’s to do more than indicate our displeasure to Marcos. Unless by some miracle he holds and wins a fair election, we should pressure him into quitting. One form of pressure, of course, is economic. If the U.S. cut off military and other aid (increased to $70 million this year), other countries and private investors would no doubt follow suit by cutting off all new loans. Without foreign investments, Marcos will hold all tenuous hold on the monopolies whose powerful leaders are still standing by him.

Senator Bill Bradley recently suggested a more novel approach of getting rid of Marcos in a New York Times Op-Ed [sic] article: offer him safe passage and sanctuary in the U.S. One thing keeping Marcos from relinquishing power may be his fear of punishment for his crimes. It is estimated that he and his wife have plundered over one billion dollars from a country that suffers from desperate poverty. He might well be attracted to the idea of nursing his kidneys by the swimming pools of his cronies, who are already packing their bags for California. This conjures unpleasant memories about our solicitude to the fallen shah, but it’s likely that Marcos’s [sic] angry victims would be glad simply to get rid of him.

Indeed, it’s useful to remember why the situation in the Philippines is not like Iran, or Nicaragua. The country, which was our only actual colony, still has an abiding love for the United States and a powerful democratic tradition. Many Filipinos would like to see the nation become the 51st state. By supporting Marcos, we have sorely tested this gratitude. Still, there seems to be widespread public support for an American military presence, and strong anti-Soviet sentiment. We don’t want to antagonize the democratic forces by supporting an inept and corrupt tyrant past his time. We should reach out to the opposition now, and  make clear to Marcos that a truly fair election is his last chance to bow out gracefully.

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