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

10217. Subject: Election Interference.

We have had in the last three days a most worrisome development in US-Philippine relations, but as of now I believe things are getting back on the track. It had to do with charges that illegal electioneering material and bogus money were entering the Philippines through the Mactan air base and that senior US officers, both civilian and military, were involved in this activity. These accusations were accompanied by an informal request that the accused officers be removed from the Philippines. This message reports an interview with acting Foreign Secretary Ingles on September 26 and President Marcos on September 28.
Acting Secretary Ingles asked me2 to call at 5:30 on September 26. Executive Secretary Maceda was in his office when I arrived and was present during the meeting.
Ingles said he wanted to relay to me a message from President Marcos. It was a very serious charge that some of our people were interfering in Philippine internal affairs by taking sides in the election. He said that the President had intelligence reports which indicated that propaganda material and counterfeit money was coming in on our aircraft landing at Mactan and being turned over to the opposition. Ingles said that they wanted to inspect our incoming cargo to prevent this from happening in the future.
I told him that I did not know the terms of our base agreement affecting Mactan but would look into the matter urgently and be in touch with him as soon as possible.
Ingles then said that the evidence pointed to the involvement of two officers in the Mactan area and two senior officers in the Embassy, and that Marcos had asked that these officers be removed from the Philippines. Maceda at this point broke in to say that the President was so concerned that he had considered sending Kokoy Romualdez to Washington to convey the evidence.
I told Maceda that I was making a formal request through him to see President Marcos at the first opportunity. I said that I would like to see the evidence, that I would investigate the matter thoroughly, but that I was convinced that no senior officer of the Embassy could be engaged in any such action. Ingles, in a somewhat sheepish manner, said that it was of course not necessary to produce evidence. I agreed, but said that it would be most unusual in the relations between two friendly countries, particularly the Philippines and the US, to send home senior officers under such a cloud. This request, I continued, would come as a great shock to Washington and I felt that it would be best for our overall relations not to report the conversation until I had talked personally to the President. I said that if I did report it I would obviously get instructions to see the President anyway at the earliest opportunity. At this point Maceda said something which made it apparent that there was uncertainty about the identity of one of the officers. I said that this uncertainty made it all the more necessary for me to talk personally to the President and clear up the matter. Maceda said that he would radio to the President and arrange for an appointment.
I saw Marcos at 8:30 last night shortly after he had returned from a campaign trip. After delivering the Nixon family pictures (a good time for them to arrive!), I said that Maceda and Ingles had previously given me a most serious matter which I felt necessitated a request to see him even in the midst of his demanding schedule. Marcos said that he was truly concerned about some reports he had seen of activities at Mactan. He doubted that the traffic concerned was of real significance but hoped that it could be stopped before it became significant. He said he could hardly believe our officials at Mactan were involved, but the evidence he had was disturbing.
I told Marcos it was most important that he not misunderstand what I was about to say. I wanted him to know first of all that I recognized beyond any doubt that the final decision as to what foreigners remained in his country was up to him. I also wanted him to know that at this point I was in no position to deny anything that might have happened at Mactan because I was in no position to know. My chief request to him was to furnish us with such evidence as he could so that we could make a most thorough investigation. I told him that I would lead this investigation personally and would like to go to Mactan on Tuesday, probably accompanied by General Gideon’s inspector general, if I could get the facts in time to make that schedule. I went on to tell him that my instructions from the Secretary of State and the President were explicit that no American should involve himself in any way in the election process in the Philippines. I had personally passed this out after my arrival, not only to my senior staff, but also at the various bases that I had been able to visit so far. I had followed this [Page 412]up with a written instruction to every American to not only remain out of the election process completely, but to avoid any act that could through misunderstanding cause the slightest suspicion of being involved. I said that in the face of all this I found it very difficult to believe that American personnel were involved, because their careers would be at stake, and we operated a very tight system where matters such as this were involved. I said this was one reason I had not so far reported the matter to Washington as I was afraid of severe reaction there, caused by an unwillingness to believe that our senior people could be involved, particularly so as we had been given no evidence.
Marcos interrupted to ask if I had not been given details of their charges, and seemed surprised when I replied in the negative. He said he would provide them to me and attempted unsuccessfully to get the papers from his staff as it was late Sunday evening. I told him I did not want to take his personal time on such a matter in any event and he agreed to supply the information to me through Rafferty today. He said that I would find that some of the information including items, tail numbers, etc. would be specific.
The President said he was most concerned about counterfeit money, campaign propaganda, and weapons coming in from outside the Philippines. He had specific information, that he felt had nothing to do with us, that the first shipment of 10 million pesos supplied by a Stephen Sy, a Chinese in Hong Kong, was to arrive in the Philippines between the 25th and 30th September, after a couple of trial runs of other less important amounts and items. In this connection it occurred to him that perhaps that past shipments in question into Mactan might have been these trial shipments.
I told him that by Tuesday night Mactan, at least from the American side, would be one tight airport. I said I would talk to General Gideon as soon as he returns, and to his deputy in his absence about tightening up at Clark in every conceivable way.
Marcos never mentioned the two senior officers here in Manila, nor did he say anything about desiring that I have any people removed. I believe, therefore, particularly with the steps that I told him I would take, that a PNG request is not in the works.
Marcos sounds as if he has hard evidence, but considering the heightening Malacanang tensions as election day approaches, we may find nothing but a sinister interpretation of an innocent incident. However, since the charge comes directly from the head of state, I feel we must make an honest effort to investigate.
An extreme position of subordinates followed by a calmer, moderate attitude of the boss is, I understand, Filipino tactic to test the water, and Marcos may have also been floating a “to-whom-it-may-concern” [Page 413]warning while soliciting a reassurance3 that we are not against him.
  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 555, Country Files, Far East, Philippines, Vol. I. Secret; Exdis. Repeated to CINCPAC exclusive for Admiral McCain, and to 13th Air Force exclusive for General Dempster.
  2. The new U.S. Ambassador, Henry A. Byroade, presented his credentials to the Philippine Government on August 29.
  3. Telegram 10314 from Manila, October 1, reported alleged Philippine sightings of several small “bundles” of papers being taken off USAF C–141s at Mactan and delivered to the USIS office in Cebu City. The Philippine Government reported its suspicion that these bundles were election materials supporting Osmena, Marcos’ opponent in the upcoming presidential election, but provided no proof. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 555, Country Files, Far East, Philippines, Vol. I) Telegram 10354 from Manila, October 3, reported that its investigation did not develop any information to confirm these suspicions. (Ibid.) Telegram 10484 from Manila, October 6, reported Byroade’s letter to Marcos, detailing the results of the investigation. (Ibid.) The matter thereafter was dropped by both sides.