309. Telegram From the Embassy in the Philippines to the Department of State 1
66. I saw President Macapagal this evening and conveyed to him in detail contents of Deptel 36.2 I emphasized several times that Washington was both gravely concerned and disappointed that the Vietnam bill had not been pressed. When I had finished the President said that he had further discussions with party leaders since our earlier talks and they had unanimously agreed that it was best to postpone action until after the elections. He reiterated the reasons he had earlier given and assured me that a minimum of one million pesos would be made available to keep the two medical and civic action teams in Vietnam for another year. I told the President that in all frankness I must tell him that I was not convinced that if a determined and bipartisan effort had been made to pass the Vietnam bill it would have passed in close to its present form. The President told me that if the Nacionalistas had been sincere in their desire to support meaningful aid to Vietnam [Page 679]they would have supported the administration’s bill. This bill, he said, provided precisely the kind of aid the Government of Vietnam had requested. The President said, “I think I know the Nacionalistas and their motives. Marcos is no leader and he will do what the Lopezes tell him to do.” He continued, “If I win, and I am increasingly certain that I will win, I promise, and you can tell Washington this, that I will call a special session of Congress on November 15. If I win by a large majority, I will ask for more than what the present bill calls for (i.e. a battalion of engineers plus security forces). I agreed with Senator Manahan that in addition to this we should send more civic action teams. We need the experience, and if trouble develops with Indonesia we will have to fight the kind of war which is now being fought in Vietnam.” “I hope Washington will understand,” he said, “that I am sincere; that ever since I was first heard of, I have been known as a friend of democracy and particularly of the US. If the bill I presented had been watered down, the image of the Philippines would have been impaired.” I interrupted to tell the President that I felt the reputation of the Philippines would be impaired in any event once it became known that the bill which his administration had publicly and enthusiastically proposed was not going to be approved. The President said that he believed that anyone who understood the workings of democratic governments would appreciate that there are many things that can not be accomplished in the final frenzy of a political campaign. In conclusion, the President said with apparent feeling that he hoped Washington would understand that all that was involved was a temporary delay—less than four months—and that he would still fulfill his commitment. I told the President that we had no alternative but to accept his decision but that the next few months might well be the tough and crucial months—that the US had been carrying a disproportionate share of the burden—that we had reason to believe we could count on the Philippines for meaningful assistance, but that this help had not materialized.
The President assured me this help would be forthcoming and asked again for understanding of the circumstances which had made impossible at this time passage of the administration’s bill.