371. Telegram From the Embassy in the Philippines to the Department of State 1

16312. Subject: Williams talk with President Marcos.

Today I had the most basic and best talk yet with President Marcos. He had asked me to come over Monday when I telephoned him Saturday2 with Department’s answer to his inquiry on Admiral Bringle’s visit to Malaysia. The meeting was preceded by a preliminary meeting with Undersecretary of Defense Melchor and Chief of JUSMAG Gomes present. This was a discussion on GOP purchase of ammunition from Taipei. It will be reported separately.3 As that part of the meeting drew to a close, I told the President I would like to bring something else up and he immediately suggested a private conference. The way he did it suggested to me that he had had this private conference in mind from the beginning. Melchor and Gomes withdrew and the President and I retired to the sitting space through the pillars behind his desk. There is a sofa between two rattling air-conditioners and two large easy chairs. Assistant Secretary Bundy will remember this as the place where we met with the President. The conversation was isolated and secure.
Anti-American demonstrations. The President began the conversation by saying he understood that we were concerned with the official support of the recent demonstrations. He said that it was true that he had close touch with elements in these demonstrations, particularly students and labor. He said and later repeated that while the situation now was under control, at one point it was in danger of playing into and falling into the hands of the Communists. As a consequence, he had maintained touch with radical leaders and had infiltrated his people so as to maintain control. He said, “You can tell your government that it can rely on the fact that I am in charge and that there will be no anti-American demonstrations that will get out of control.” He said that there were some student organizations that were not strong enough and independent enough to prevent the Communists and other radicals from leading them. He then said that there were a number of radical leaders that he had enveloped in order to prevent their working against him. He said that Secretary of Labor Ople was one of these. He said he was a brilliant man and if he were left loose [Page 824]by himself, he could organize against the government. He mentioned two or three other names that I couldn’t hear clearly. One of these was Adrian Christobel, a young speech writer and associate of Ople.
At approximately this moment I moved in with the point which I had originally intended to make with the President, namely that we felt that the United States was being harassed in the Department of Finance in matters such as Manila port customs. Specifically, after 18 years we were being required to fill out long form declarations of tax exemption which unduly tied up operations, required storage and opened possibilities of pilferage, etc. As my purpose was to raise U.S. concern about harassment of various kinds rather than seeking to work out any particular point, I did not further develop the matter.
Sabah. The talk in connection with the demonstrations turned naturally toward Sabah. The President said, “You know the Philippine people are really concerned about Sabah. I didn’t realize myself how concerned they were. This is an important, serious issue with them.” The President said again, as he had on previous occasions, that the Moslems were causing him a great deal of trouble on this issue. He said that Mindanao Moslems could be a problem because they could go to Sabah at any time and could cause trouble there. He said again as he said when Assistant Secretary Bundy spoke with him,4 that he would do everything to try to stop them from doing this, including his using force. He brought this latter matter up in connection with his last point, namely that the United States could help settle the Sabah issue.
Clark guns to Huks. The President next came up with three specific subjects. The first was his observation that guns and ammunition were getting out of Clark Field to the Huks. He admitted perhaps some had been stolen. He incidentally remarked that he had figures to indicate that there was enough alcohol coming into Clark to provide two gallons per day to each man. He said they were worried that there were a lot of luxury cars at Clark and that these and other luxury items could turn up in the black market. I told the President I would get in touch with Clark Field and have a specific survey made immediately of the possibilities of guns and ammunition getting to the Huks and that as soon as I had a complete answer I would ask the President for a meeting and would bring the 13th Air Force Commander to sit in with him to go over the whole thing. He indicated that he would be pleased to do so. On the matter of alcohol and luxury items, I said that the use of long forms or short forms in clearing shipping through Manila would do nothing to help solve that problem. I said, however, [Page 825]that we would be pleased to sit down with anyone to examine the problem and then to determine what specifically could be done to control it. In speaking about the possibility of arms getting to the Huks. He said, “Can’t you do something about security at Clark.” I said that starting with Smith incident, we had begun a complete review of all base security and would at the proper time welcome the opportunity to sit down with the Philippine authorities to see whether there were additional ways and means either unilaterally or bilaterally, to control this problem which concerned us very much.
Lansdale working politically against President Marcos. He opened this point with a question, “Where is Lansdale anyway? Is he working for the U.S. Government?” Of course I told the President that Lansdale was not working for the government but was in Honolulu at the East-West Center. I speculated that he was in a position where both Filipinos and Americans travelling from Manila to U.S. could be in contact with him and come back with stories, true or fabricated about their meetings with him. The President then said that he understood that Lansdale and 20 or 30 people were disappointed in him as President because he hadn’t adequately repaid them for the help they had given him in his Presidential election. He then said, “I understand that Lansdale is trying to develop a candidate to beat me in the coming election.” I told him that the U.S. Government had nothing whatsoever to do with Lansdale nor with anything he might be doing in developing a political opponent for Marcos. I told him that the U.S. is staying strictly out of any internal political matters. At the same time if we, as observers only had to lay odds on the outcome “in the language of the Philippine press you would be our bet. First of all you are the most likely winner and secondly you are by and large trying to do the things we would like to see done. Of course we are not backing anyone and we are not going to.” The President terminated this part of our conversation by saying that he would very much appreciate it if we could get to Lansdale and tell him in some way to lay off. I said that we hadn’t any way to do that inasmuch as he was not employed by us in any way but I would pass the message on to see whether Washington had any ideas on the subject.
Washington dislike of Philippines. President Marcos opened new subject by saying, “I don’t think the State Department really likes the Philippines.” He said his Ambassador in Washington had sent a report that in some recent public statements about foreign aid the Philippines wasn’t mentioned once. I told him that I was frankly worried about the same thing. I said, “A moment ago, Mr. President, you said that you could ultimately control Ople because you fought together in Bataan. In this country and in mine there is a new generation who doesn’t remember Bataan and they look at these things in a different [Page 826]light.” I said that introspection in our country was prevalent. Our aid bill is the smallest in history. People in the U.S. are fed up with other countries and are looking inward. I said that this meant that people like the President and myself who wanted to see good relations between countries must be particularly careful to keep our lines straight. I said that any of the little irritants that come up are viewed in a different light from the earlier days of our close relationship. I said that some of the things that had happened recently in the Philippines were not making a good impression at home and that he knew what the McCloskey statement had blown up into in the Philippines.5 I said that I thought my government would feel good about our conversation because I could tell them what he was really thinking about and that I hoped we could periodically have discussions to review the problems between us. He agreed that this was a good idea.
Philippines/Malaysia summit. President Marcos then went on to say, “I want to ask your government’s help in getting a successful meeting between Malaysia and myself. I would like to see a picture taken of the Tunku and me sitting down at such a meeting.” I said first of all I would like to understand whether President Marcos would be satisfied with a conference only involving a picture of himself taken with the Tunku or whether he was going to open a discussion in search of a Sabah solution. “I would like to get together and talk about lessening the tension between our countries,” he said. I said, “We have taken the position constantly that we would like to see your two countries get together. We would certainly favor such a meeting. We have always wanted to see your neighbors help you get together, since we want to keep our profile very low. I don’t know what we ourselves can do to bring about a meeting between you two.” He then said, “If I may make a suggestion, I would like to suggest that your country could get together with the British to move Malaysia in the direction of such a conference.” He said that he had talked with the British Ambassador recently about this matter. I said that I would convey the President’s feelings to my government and I added that I felt sure my government would be very happy to know of the President’s interest in trying to get the Sabah matter calmed down.
Conclusions. While I want to think over the implications of this conference before making a final report, after a preliminary discussion with top staff members, I think I can safely conclude that this was an important and useful conversation. Among the implications would be these: (A) our ties to the President through him, Rafferty to Mrs. Marcos and directly to the President are working well and providing a method [Page 827]of communication which, among other things, permits testing of the waters before Ambassadorial conversations; (B) it seems clear that the objective of having the President come to us, as raised in our previous summary telegrams, was partly achieved, although we left our door open through the Rafferty route. President Marcos is evidently concerned about what the U.S. thinks about his involvement in the recent anti-U.S. demonstrations and was concerned about the indications of Washington coolness towards the Philippines as conveyed to them through Ambassador Lopez. We continue to believe, however, that further signals to Marcos of the indirect sort suggested in our trilogy of cables would be helpful and would appreciate Department’s views; (C) he definitely showed a raw nerve in his concern that the U.S. Government might be supporting Lansdale in developing his alleged campaign against Marcos’ re-election. We have had previous indications from weeks back that Marcos was concerned that the U.S. Government was conspiring against him; (D) the Malaysia ploy either indicates that he is trying to please us by doing something which will show an attitude which we would approve, or he is genuinely interested in our assistance with the British, as he had been before his Sabah statement, or both; (E) we have not yet satisfied ourselves as to just what the Clark Field guns to the Huks point really means. It may be only that he is opening a possible bridge to further discussions. This matter is an old chestnut that the President has been fully informed about and we will of course bring him up to date; (F) all in all, the President’s demeanor, the tone of the conversation and the several openings for further intimate discussions, inclines me to the view that this conversation has the potential for closer and hopefully better relations with the President.
  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 15–1 PHIL. Secret; Exdis.
  2. October 12.
  3. Not further identified.
  4. See Document 369.
  5. See footnote 3, Document 373.