190. Memorandum From the Acting Executive Secretary of the Department of State (Walsh) to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1

SUBJECT

  • Meeting Between President Nixon and Philippine Presidential Candidate Osmena
    During the President’s Visit to Manila

You asked for recommendations as to whether President Nixon should meet with Senator Osmena, and if so, how such a meeting could be arranged.

Pros and Cons

There is no gainsaying the fact that President Nixon’s visit will be—indeed is already being—interpreted by the Filipinos as an act having an important bearing on their Presidential election. If President Nixon does not see Osmena, this will be interpreted as an indication that we expect Marcos to win, want him to win, and are content to let Marcos harvest all the spin-off benefits of the visit.

Moreover, it is by no means certain that President Marcos will win the November election. Osmena may well be the Philippine chief executive during a period of critical transition in U.S.–Philippine relations. It is not prudent to ignore that possibility.

[Page 403]

Finally, Senator Osmena is unquestionably disappointed that President Nixon has refused to see him during Osmena’s current visit to the United States.2 Osmena has declined a proferred appointment with Under Secretary Richardson, probably because he believes that a contact only at that level would be interpreted in the Philippines as a mark of American disfavor.

The only argument against seeing Osmena is the possibility of offending Marcos.3 Marcos would doubtless prefer that we ignore Osmena. However, the Marcos reception in Washington in April was excellent and he was extremely pleased by it. The President’s visit to Manila will be a political boon of the first water to Marcos, even if it includes a brief meeting with Osmena. Marcos is certainly conscious of all this and can, we believe, be persuaded to accept without too much ill grace a contact with Osmena.

The Modalities

1.
We should inform President Marcos that Senator Osmena has requested a meeting with President Nixon. We should point out that it is very difficult to refuse such a request, particularly in view of the tradition that U.S. Presidents, in dealing with our democratic friends, customarily meet with leaders of the opposition as a normal aspect of political intercourse between open societies.
2.
We should inform Marcos that to de-personalize the meeting somewhat we propose that President Nixon will have a brief meeting on the evening of his arrival with the leaders of the opposition, that is Party Chairman Roxas, Secretary General Aquino, Presidential candidate Osmena and Vice Presidential candidate Magsaysay.

Embassy Manila agrees that a meeting with Osmena is important, if not in Washington, then in Manila. We favor Manila for the meeting, [Page 404]for Osmena has already been turned down on his request for a meeting here with the President. Moreover, a meeting here is more subject to misinterpretation and distortion than one in Manila, and would not really substitute for a Manila meeting.

CIA concurs.

John P. Walsh
  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 14 PHIL. Secret. Drafted by Wright, cleared by Green, and signed by Walsh.
  2. Kissinger returned a call from Donald Kendall, CEO of Pepsico Inc., on July 1, to explain the decision not to see Osmena in Washington. Kendall said he was dining with Osmena that evening and was “prepared to give Osmena any message” Kissinger thought he should have. Kissinger said that “we have nothing against him and would not be heartbroken if he won election—odds favor the other guy. Kendall said one thing that bothers Osmena is that Marcos will use the President’s trip” and Kissinger agreed. Kissinger said that “he gets nothing but good reports about Osmena which makes it tough but does not think Pres. should see him.” Kendall asked if there was any particular message which Kissinger wanted passed to Osmena. Kissinger “said only that we are interested in close relations with him and if he wins election he will find us cooperative and forthcoming—we have no favorites and are strictly neutral.” (Notes of Telephone Conversation, July 1, 1969, 9:50 a.m.; Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box 360, Telephone Conversations, Chronological File)
  3. Telegram 7261 from Manila, July 11, reported that Osmena’s trip to the United States brought charges from Marcos that the Senator was an “American boy,” which led Osmena to declare an “independent policy.” (National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 7 PHIL)