315. Memorandum Prepared in the Central Intelligence Agency1


  • The 1965 Philippine Election

Summary: Too Close for Comfort

An Analysis of the 1965 Philippines’ Presidential Elections2 reveals one basic factor (and virtually no others with any certainty), which is that the elections, at this time, are extremely close. Prospects are they will remain close right up to the vote on 9 November. Although manipulation of elections in the Philippines is by no means a new phenomenon, this basic factor, together with other factors which tend to enhance its importance, renders the current elections of much greater interest than is normal, particularly in terms of the various methods to improve their respective positions which either side may resort to. The elections methods employed and the results, especially if close, can be expected to aggravate an already tense situation, in the time remaining prior to, during, and especially, after the elections.
Some concern has been expressed that if the initial returns are close and subsequent returns do not produce a decisive advantage for one side or the other, a tense situation may develop, with each camp apprehensive that the other may resort to violence to achieve victory. Against this concern it must, however, be noted that the Filipinos have a tendency to over-dramatize situations, and that there can be a gap between threatening words and actual deeds, with potentially explosive situations being resolved peacefully despite the show of force which seems called for out of considerations of pride and prestige. The Embassy is preparing a separate report on this aspect of the elections.
At least two other factors give some reason for concern over the elections in general. This is the first time the Filipinos have conducted an election without the direct and at least to some extent, steadying influence of United States involvement; they are on their own and they may be expected to indulge in many more manipulatory tactics than in [Page 689]previous elections since 1949. The other factor of some importance is the Filipino voters’ exposure in the provinces and down to the barrio level to more sophisticated mass political media of virtually every type. The effect of mass media on the average Filipino voter is an unknown quantity, but in making the voter himself more sophisticated, however basically good the process, the probable course of the elections becomes even more difficult to interpret.

“The Third Force”

It is generally conceded that Manglapus of the PPP has no chance. Little attention is being given to him, although his down-the-line reform stand has gone over well. Manglapus’ strength varies widely in reporting, anywhere from two to seventeen percent. There is no clear data as to whom he has harmed or helped; most observers feel this scale would be about equal. Nevertheless, the outcome of Manglapus, and the rest of the PPP candidates, is worth watching due to the demonstrated appeal during the elections campaign to younger elements in the voting public and as a possible gauge to the future of reform movement in the country.

Vote Prognostications

1. One month prior to the elections, both camps claim ultimate victory; Macapagal by a margin of from 360,000 to 400,000 votes; Marcos’ exact plurality claim is not known. All available information at this time indicates that Marcos is leading nationally by from three to five percent. Results of the most recent national Robot-Gallup poll conducted during 10–28 September were as follows:

President Macapagal 39 percent
Senator Marcos 43 percent
Senator Manglapus 9 percent
Don’t know or refused to answer 9 percent

The Marcos lead, because of its slender nature, thus raises the distinct probability of increased manipulation tactics by both sides: Marcos to increase his slim lead substantially; and Macapagal not only to catch up, but to greatly strengthen his position to one of as little concern as possible prior to the elections. It is perhaps academic to note that the incumbent has by far superior manipulatory capability than has his opponent, at least if the opponent’s position does not become so strong as to become irreversible.

2. Registered voters in the Philippines number somewhere between seven and nine million, with slightly over seven and one half million being the usual figure quoted. It is generally reported that in order to win an opposition candidate must have a lead of from eight [Page 690]to ten percent going into the elections, mainly to take up the slack of expected vote frauds by the incumbent, which, for unclear reasons, can be expected to range between 500,000 and one million votes—any higher figure being considered too dangerous. However questionable such figures may be, the fact remains that Marcos in order to win, and short of a landslide, should have a lead of about ten percent over Macapagal; a lead which he does not now have and probably cannot attain in the face of pressures and capabilities Macapagal can mount before 9 November.

3. An LP official’s estimate as of 1 October covering provinces and cities is of considerable interest, particularly since the findings are within .2 percent nationally of other and more recent polls, and since the same official accurately predicted the 1961 results. The official in question is an associate of Speaker Pro Tem Pendatun. A brief summary of his estimates follows:

Nationally—Marcos would receive 3,942,391 to 3,630,297 for Macapagal, or a margin of 312,094.

Provinces—Marcos 3,359,226 to 3,067,085 for Macapagal; a margin of 292,141 for Marcos (Northern Luzon to Marcos by 165,660; Central Luzon to Macapagal by 17,205; Southern Tagalog to Marcos by 149,206; Bicol to Macapagal by 11,156; Eastern Visayas to Marcos by 42,244; Western Visayas to Marcos by 18,637; and Mindanao to Macapagal by 55,225).

Cities—Macapagal would receive in the major cities 124,945 to 110,651 for Marcos, a margin of 14,294 (Luzon to Marcos by 50,891; Visayas to Macapagal by 16,644; and Mindanao to Macapagal by 14,294).

4. The LP Executive Committee, as of 10 October had Macapagal winning by a margin of 360,000. Prognosis was that Macapagal would lose Ilocandia by 200,000; Manila by 60,000; Northern Luzon by 40,000, but win Central Luzon by 170,000, Southern Tagalog by 10,000; Bicol by 40,000; Mindanao by 300,000; and the Visayas by 100,000.

5. A Police Constabulary poll of 10 October found that Macapagal would win the election by a margin of 260,000 to 400,000. It is probable that this poll is the basis for current LP figures in the elections.

Prospects for “HankyPanky”

Given past experience both sides will undoubtedly engage in widespread manipulation tactics, including vote frauds, subversion of election officials, stuffing of ballot boxes, votes lost through managed counting, etc. In addition, both sides will use every other means at their disposal to improve their own position. In this context, Macapagal has a clear edge, largely due to the fact that as the incumbent he has a far greater capability. In the past, the AFP and especially the PC have figured prominently in elections to the advantage of the party in power. Although the AFP and the PC have assured the NP that there is no [Page 691]intention of using either in the current elections, it is already apparent this is not the case. The PC is involved in conducting polls on behalf of Macapagal and despite the fact that Malacanang claims otherwise the transfer of some eleven PC officials from areas of Marcos strength in the North to safe areas in the South at this time indicates some degree of political overtone. Minister of Defense Peralta stated to the US Charge d’Affaires some time ago that he would utilize every means at his disposal if necessary. Regarding the AFP, however, Macapagal can be expected to exercise some caution, since Marcos is popular with the military, the majority of whom are Iloconos from the North. Reports also indicate that the government plans to take many popular measures, including tax amnesty, distribution of much needed rice in various regions just prior to the elections, etc., and can probably find many other ways to improve the government’s image in such a way as to have considerable impact before 9 November.
Regardless of his seemingly better position in terms of manipulation, Macapagal nevertheless has problems. Although he has already used virtually every legal and illegal means to acquire and distribute funds, information indicates there is a serious shortage of money; at least money in the quantity Macapagal may feel is required in the remaining weeks. Macapagal must also make every effort to keep various important supporters behind him, especially in the face of an increase in Marcos’ lead, which would carry with it a bandwagon reaction. A case in point would be a switch by Pendatun, which in turn would threaten the Macapagal stronghold in Mindanao. The position of the bloc-voting INK, which claims to be able to deliver between 200,000 and 800,000 votes, is apparently not yet fixed. Latest information from NP sources claim the INK will back Marcos (and Macapagal’s running mate Roxas), but there is no certainty that Bishop Manolo of the INK may not opportunistically switch at the last moment. There is little doubt that Macapagal is concerned. Both LP and NP highlevel sources report that Macapagal will have 400,000 fraudulent votes in Cotabato, Surigao, North and South Lanao (all in Mindanao), Cebu, and Iloilo. The same sources claim the NP will have 100,000 fraudulent votes, but no specific region is known.

Possible Trouble and Violence

Tension is clearly rising as we enter the last two weeks of election, and tension will continue until the final results are known and accepted. The candidates themselves contribute to fears of violence by charges that opponents are resorting to violent tactics or threatening them. Macapagal alleges Marcos has threatened to shoot Macapagal in the event of an LP victory, and that a “select group” of Nacionalistas have hatched a plan for post election trouble. In view of Peralta’s statements to the Charge d’Affaires that he would do whatever was [Page 692]necessary, and in view of Liberal Party intentions as expressed to Embassy officers of manipulating returns in Mindanao, the Macapagal charges may be a smoke screen to hide his own post election intentions.
The Nacionalistas are not in a position where they can foment violence or trouble that could not be dealt with by the Constabulary and the Army. Macapagal’s capability in fomenting disorder is limited only by pro-Marcos sentiment within the AFP officer corps. Marcos on the other hand could obtain a more sympathetic hearing from the Senate. Marcos has also made a campaign issue of his respect for the Supreme Court in contrast to Macapagal’s constant rebuffs by the High Court. It would appear likely that Marcos will take his protests, if any, through the Senate and the Courts. Macapagal’s most practical recourse is through manipulation and force majeure.
Possible post election difficulties might take one or more of the following forms:
In the event of an early Macapagal lead, the NP would scour the country for evidence of fraud and manipulation which they could utilize for contesting the election in the courts or justifying a refusal to certify results by the Senate.
Publicity given to NP proof of fraud, legitimate or manufactured, might well inspire protest rallies which could lead to civil dis- turbances and to further breakdown of law and order.
Unnecessary deputizing of the Constabulary and their pro- administration activities could lead to clashes with local government and police.
If Marcos was leading in the early returns, an all out effort might be made to ensure that appropriate late returns from “the birds and trees” of Mindanao would ensure a Macapagal victory.
Civil disturbances might result if the administration suspended election reporting by the Philippine Jay Cees and the Philippine News Service in an effort to avoid obvious contradictions in election results.
If Macapagal imposed Martial Law to ensure blatantly fraudulent returns or to counter post election moves by the NP, pro-Marcos sentiment within the Armed Forces could even crystallize into a coup d’etat in favor of Marcos.
Calling in the military either by Martial Law or extensive deputizing of the Constabulary would only result in a further deterioration of normal law and order in the Philippines.
In the event of a closely contested election, which is certain to occasion flagrant vote manipulation by the administration, a growing disillusionment with the democratic process would probably develop. [Page 693]The electorate would become increasingly vulnerable to the appeal of radical alternatives.
Despite growing talk of violence and manipulation, the Philippines is generally expected to maintain its reputation for generally orderly and relatively honest elections. General Rigoberto Atienza and Brig General Flaviano Olivares, Armed Forces and PC chiefs, respectively, have pledged honest and orderly elections in a direct meeting with the President of the Nacionalistas Party. However, in view of the probable closeness of the election, the possibility of post election trouble should not be underestimated.

A Pyrrhic Victory?

In the final analysis, and ruling out a bandwagon sweep for Marcos in the last weeks, which seems doubtful, Macapagal may be expected to win the elections. This is not to say that Macapagal will ever feel secure enough not to utilize to the fullest all means at his disposal, which in turn could inevitably increase the tension in the Philippines to the breaking point, during and/or after the elections if the results are close. Marcos probably does not have the capability to match Macapagal and the machine. Regardless of a Macapagal or Marcos win, the Philippines as such, and specifically the Filipinos, stand to gain very little indeed. Interesting as the current elections may be, the principal fact which they point up is a continued deterioration in the Philippines situation. The elections serve to aggravate and perhaps make more readable that situation; there is little chance the results will improve it.

  1. Source: Department of State, INR/IL Historical Files, Philippines, 1964–1968. Secret.
  2. In Intelligence Memorandum OCI No. 2343/65, October 28, entitled “Philippine Elections,” the CIA described the election campaign, the candidates, and the issues and concluded that as all three Presidential candidates were “Western oriented and pledge to continue close ties with the US and the West.” The significance of the elections lay “not so much in who wins, but in whether the winner institutes and pursues a basic socioeconomic reform program. Without reforms, generalized public discontent is likely to increase and the small leftist element in the Philippines will probably grow.” (Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Philippines, Vol. II, 6/64–6/66, [1 of 2])