317. Information Memorandum From the Assistant Secretary of State for Far Eastern Affairs (Bundy) to Secretary of State Rusk 1


  • Philippine National Elections, Tuesday, November 9, 1965
The race for President, opposing Senate President Ferdinand Marcos (Nacionalista) to incumbent President Diosdado Macapagal (Liberal), is extremely close, with the victory margin unlikely to be over 2 to 400,000 votes (3 to 6 percent) of a total expected vote of some 7–7.5 million. (The third-party candidate, Raoul Manglapus (Progressive) is given no real chance of victory, though he may poll close to 20 percent of the total vote.) There is thus a distinct possibility of strong contest of the results by the defeated candidate, and of delay in his concession. Even though there are chances of scattered and perhaps some serious violence and disorder, we believe on balance that the contest will be by and large settled peacefully and probably within a period of one to three weeks after the elections.
If Macapagal is re-elected, we can expect him promptly to call a special congressional session to enact the bill to send an engineer task force of some 2500, including security elements, to Viet-Nam. We can also expect continuation of the basically cooperative Philippine attitude in response to our various requests for expanded use of US bases and facilities in support of the Viet-Nam war effort. (For example, we are rapidly building up an important US Air Force facility at Mactan Island, Cebu, on the basis of a combined use arrangement with the Philippine Air Force.) We can further expect to move forward with reasonable speed in the elimination of so-called irritants (military and economic) in US-Philippine relations, and to continue to find the Philippines solidly aligned with Free World purposes and objectives. On the other hand, it is not likely that Macapagal, in his second administration, will make significantly more progress in terms of urgently needed programs of internal development than he did in his first. Internal problems in the Philippines might, consequently, become very acute in the not too distant future.
If Marcos wins the Presidency, we will first of all have a difficult lame-duck period of some two months before his inauguration (December 30).[Page 695] It is unlikely that we could make much progress on aid to Viet-Nam during that period, although it could be used to bring Marcos and those likely to emerge as his closest associates more fully aboard than they are now on this question. Marcos can be expected to be generally cooperative in seeking solutions to current Philippine-American problems, and to continue basic Philippine orientation toward Free World purposes and objectives. Nationalist elements around Marcos, however, are likely to make a strong bid for influence in the event of his victory. We might therefore have more difficulties than we would with Macapagal on foreign policy. On the other hand, Marcos and the group around him might be more dynamic and effective in moving the country forward internally.
The Vice Presidential election will probably be won by Senator Gerardo Roxas (Liberal), as against his opponents, Senator Fernando Lopez (Nacionalista) and Manuel Manahan (Progressive). The possibility of a Marcos-Roxas Administration therefore distinctly exists. If elected, Roxas might emerge as Foreign Secretary under either Macapagal or Marcos, but the prospect is uncertain. Roxas is an honest and able younger politician and his probable victory is to be welcomed.
Although it is difficult to predict which of the two main parties will control Congress, it is likely that the Liberals will emerge with slight majorities. In any case, enough post-electoral defections to the party of the winning President are likely to occur, to give the latter an opportunity to obtain support for his legislative program if he shows the requisite qualities of leadership and determination. This was not always the case during the last two years of the Macapagal Administration.
Whoever wins November 9, it will be most important that we get close to the President-elect and contribute in influencing him to take the steps required both to enhance Free World objectives in the area and for forward movement in solving the Philippines’ badly neglected internal problems.
  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964–66, POL 14 PHIL. Secret. Drafted by Paul M. Kattenburg, Officer in Charge of Philippine Affairs, and Cleared by Cuthell.