362. Telegram From the Embassy in the Philippines to the Department of State0
655. Ref Embtels 598 and 623.1 Continued absence concession statement by Pres Garcia, and daily spate speculative, and often imaginative stories, circulating in Manila rumor mills and appearing in press have maintained some degree of tension in local atmosphere.
Nervousness accentuated Dec 7 with appearance unattributed accounts both Daily Mirror and Evening News to effect Garcia preparing protest to be filed with Congress before Dec 12 joint session. Papers added protest to be discussed with Senate Pres Rodriguez and NP congressional leaders during weekend. Dec 8 papers carried Press Secretary Nable’s statement issued previous night that President “still awaiting official results of elections and no decision as yet reached as to what course of action to be taken.” Statement concluded “President has no knowledge of any protest or complaint being prepared on manner in which poll count has been conducted.” Press also reported Liberal leaders late Dec 7 decided ask Supreme Court issue writ mandamus compel Congress proclaim Macapagal and Pelaez in event NP majority resort dilatory tactics.
At Malacanang farewell dinner for Ambassador Thursday night Garcia told Amb he had not been well and attributed his “nervous tension” to aftereffects of drugs his doctors had prescribed to keep him going during campaign. He said he expected this effect would wear off next few days but meanwhile he felt “confused”.
In response Amb’s inquiry about rumors concerning vote count and proclamation, Garcia at first replied that whatever might happen relations between Phils and US would not be affected. Amb then referred to prospect for orderly transfer of powers.2Garcia replied he had not yet made up his mind what course of action he would take after official count completed but that Amb could be assured he would never exceed [Page 787]legal framework of Constitution and peace and order would be maintained.
[less than 1 line of source text not declassified] Garcia continues receive from extremist fringe of palace clique reports of irregularities in electoral count of a nature which, in spite of reliable sources, [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] best described as weird. Embassy has noted comments and actions both public and private by responsible administration officials (e.g., Serrano, SecDef Santos, Aytona) which amount effectively to complete acceptance Macapagal–Pelaez victory and indicate desire for orderly transfer. Nonetheless, President’s propensity for procrastination and indecision, buttressed by his isolation from all but most partisan and extremist advisors, has resulted in public position of ambiguity which has in turn kept Liberals on edge and doubtless provoked them into intemperate actions and further propagation of rumors pointing to possible public incidents and disorders during transition period.
In part, Liberals themselves are to blame. In first flush of victory Liberal leaders put undue public emphasis on pledges to fulfill campaign promises of early and vigorous prosecution graft and corruption cases. NP figures, who believed themselves personally threatened, reacted vigorously and convinced Garcia of need to withhold concession. Subsequent Macapagal instructions have produced fewer statements as well as abandonment of his own daily press conf with healthy result. Embassy informed reliably Macapagal has assured Garcia there will be no prosecution Pres and Mrs. Garcia and LP emissaries have been in touch with Mrs. Garcia and Press Secretary Nable frequently over past two weeks to give assurance and to attempt convince Pres he has everything to gain from orderly transfer.3
Nable yesterday told me preparations going forward quietly for orderly turnover and Garcia only awaiting congressional proclamation. He also confirmed that overweening Liberal statements had placed Garcia in difficult position and influenced his actions. In fact, he said early concession statement drafted and plans made for breakfast announcement, but action withheld on account Liberal allegations.
Several sources attribute Dec 7 story re Garcia protest to Senate Pres Rodriguez. Motivation not altogether clear but could be to keep himself in best possible bargaining position for retention Senate Presidency. LP official informed EmbOff both Senate and House will come under LP[Page 788]control after January. Control of Senate had already been virtually conceded by most observers on basis wounds piled up during convention and electoral knifing among NP Senators. However, House control reported to be assured on basis assurances of non-persecution given by LP’s to leaders Iglesia Ni Kristo which reportedly controls crucial bloc of Congressmen. At same time this development will allegedly bloc the election protest which has formally been filed by Vice Presidential candidate Sergio Osmena.
In sum, Embassy believes there is relatively remote possibility of any hitch in proclamation Macapagal and Pelaez although possibility minor disturbances during joint congressional session next week cannot be ruled out. AFP still firmly committed to observance Constitutional processes and maintenance peace and order. Even AFP Chief of Staff Cabal, who might, because of pending investigation against him, be considered unreliable, has privately given assurance he will back constitutionality.
Military Comdrs are conscious of possible contingency involved and have placed certain constabulary units on precautionary alert against civil disturbances. Chronicle today quotes AFP Vice C/S Cruz statement that AFP and Manila police have worked out joint security measures for Dec 12–30 period.
Times, Chronicle and Herald also report today statements by Rodriguez and House Speaker Romualdez that they consider any move by NP to block or delay proclamation “ill advised” and giving assurance that, in spite of possible turbulent session, proclamation of Pres and VP would be accomplished before Dec 30.
- Source: Department of State, Central Files, 796.00/12–961. Secret. Repeated to CINCPACPOLAD, Commander 13th Air Force, and Commander, U.S. Navy, Philippines.↩
- These telegrams, November 22 and 29, transmitted reports from Manila that if the Garcia government blocked the transfer of power to Diosadado Macapagal, the Philippine Army, Navy, and Air Force had begun contingency planning that would force the Congress to proclaim Macapagal President. Nevertheless, most reports indicated an orderly turnover of government. (Ibid., 796.00/11–2261 and 796.00/11–2961)↩
- According to telegram 582 from Manila, November 20, Macapagal asked for help from “American representatives” to exert pressure on Garcia to desist in his plans to block a peaceful transfer of power and to counteract a plan by the military to support Garcia’s continuation in power. The Embassy commented that it had no evidence that the army would support Garcia, but rather that it would support Macapagal. (Ibid., 796.00/11–2061)↩
- In telegram 656, December 9, the Embassy reported that a source close to Macapagal had requested refuge for Macapagal in the hypothetical event that Garcia moved against him. The Embassy thought the possibility unlikely and was not prepared to reply to a hypothetical question. If it became known that the United States had offered refuge it would create the impression, which was false, that the United States was expecting trouble. (Ibid., 796.00/12–961)↩