205. Backchannel Message From the Ambassador to the Philippines (Byroade) to the Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs (Green)1
132. We here are, as I am sure you can guess, in the midst of one of our occasionally delicate times. In the past few days I guess I have been spending more time trying to steer us through the present situation rather than reporting it.
When I saw Marcos the morning after the January 26 riots, he opened the conversation by saying how much he had looked forward that morning to seeing me. (We had arranged to meet on the 27th for a general talk when neither of us knew, of course, of the coming riots at Congress.) He said he had not slept much the night before, admitting that the demonstrations and riots had come as a jolt to him. He said he had been jolted further when some of his intelligence types late the night before had attempted to convince him that the U.S. had been implicated in the riots. He said he had seen pieces of paper which implicated Colonel Patterson, Dave Sternberg and Al Ravenholt.
He told me that we personally doubted these reports implicating Americans, but it was a factor nevertheless if people were talking about it around town. I told him that I had heard rumors about Patterson before and had thoroughly investigated his activities and had instructed him personally as to how to avoid future misunderstandings. I said I was thoroughly convinced that, if Patterson was guilty of anything, it was no more than having a sympathetic face.
I reminded Marcos that just after elections I had heard reports that Osmena was talking about rash things. I told him that I thought it best to go try and calm Osmena down and felt that I had at least accomplished something in my two hour talk with him. I told him at the time that I had asked that word reach him indirectly as to what I was trying to do. He said he remembered that and was grateful.
I told him that the policy of the U.S. was absolutely firm in the matter under discussion, and that was that the U.S. would in no way attempt any interference in the internal affairs of the Philippines, and that this was fully understood by my staff. We did, however, face a practical problem. It was an old game in the Philippines for politicians and others to claim American support and backing. I was sure he knew that people did occasionally approach us. It seemed also obvious that [Page 436]they were doing a lot of loose talking around town. Under these conditions if I released specific personnel without cause, nothing really would be accomplished because a new set of names would crop up in the future.
I told him I would do two things: 1) talk to sensible opposition leaders and let them know in passing, and of course with no mention of our talk, what the policy of the U.S. was, and 2) insure that no officer of mine let any such conversation end in the future without a clear statement that the U.S. policy was firmly against becoming involved in any way.
The conversation ended on good notes and I think Marcos was, temporarily at least, reasonably reassured.
In the wake of the serious demonstrations Saturday2 night Kokoy Romualdez called Rafferty on Sunday asking if the Embassy had any thought about what had happened. Rafferty merely pointed out the obvious that the real damage had been caused by the infiltration of real pros into the study body. Rafferty suggested to Kokoy that it might be a good idea if he talked to me. Kokoy checked with Marcos and showed up at my house one hour later. We had a good talk and I think Kokoy’s later report to Marcos was probably helpful. Kokoy was very frank and gave every evidence he felt himself in a friendly and helpful atmosphere. (As you know he is tense and somewhat tongue-tied when he feels himself in the opposite.) He said we had enemies surrounding Marcos who were deliberately feeding this stuff to the President.
Yesterday afternoon Osmena called me (on what are probably tapped wires) saying he had just returned from useful talks, particularly with Don Kendall in the U.S., and asked if he could come see me. I said of course he could (even though I did not particularly like the timing). Osmena stayed for 2½ rather uncomfortable hours. He was obviously happy to see the recent trouble and considered it a vindication of his protest positions over the elections. He furthermore said that this was just the beginning and that further trouble will follow. In the long conversation I let him know that some LP Party members would find us more cautious around them in the future as they were talking freely around town about contacts and conversations with Americans. I also let him know that the previous policy I had given him after elections about the U.S. position stood firm. I also said I could not see how it would benefit the Liberal Party in the future for them to even think of working side by side with leftist elements causing the trouble.
His proposition in general was that all he had tried to convince us of in the past was beginning to become true, and that the great danger [Page 437]was that things were being set up for a Communist takeover. My position was that he exaggerated that part of the problem.
I asked Osmena if he thought new worries of Marcos might make him a better President after the current troubles were over. In essence Osmena said no, because 1) in six months Marcos wouldn’t be alive and 2) Marcos didn’t have the courage to see it through, as he would not stand up under pressure from his political cronies.
Against all of the above I have a very sensitive report of a meeting which took place about 2 a.m. last night at the Palace. This would indicate that the President and Mrs. Marcos advised several close confidants that they believe the U.S. had in some way had a role in instigating demonstrations against Malacanang. President Marcos’ reasoning was that the U.S. desires to keep him off balance in view of the forthcoming U.S./Phil negotiations on Laurel–Langley, bases, etc. President Marcos also discussed contingency plans in the event an insurrection in the Manila area was successful. The President apparently said his plans in this event were to move himself and some loyal followers to the Ilocos region where he can regroup his forces.
I believe we will be able to weave ourselves through this without something stupid happening, but wanted you to have the background of these three conversations just in case. The real danger, of course, is of Marcos becoming panicky in his surprise and concern. Hopeful developments as of today is that they have asked us for renewed riot training. We are equipped to do this locally and it is now underway. Also, very trusted security chief in Malacanang has just asked us for advice and possible assistance on getting the type of dye that Germans use effectively for identification purposes in connection with the fire hoses technique of riot control.
You must remember in judging all this that we here live in a situation where it is almost inconceivable to the average Filipino that anything ever happens in the Philippines without an American hand being involved somewhere.
I will provide you with this type background through this channel to supplement our regular reporting as long as this seems necessary.3 Our principle problem at the moment seems to be one of helping Marcos to keep his cool. For this he needs reassurance from us among other things, and for this reason if for no other, I will try to see him soon and will continue to make plain that we are not and will not be involved in these internal matters.
- Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 556, Country Files, Far East, Philippines, Vol. II. Secret.↩
- January 31.↩
- In an attached note to Haig, February 2, Green passed on this message and stated that “I think Ambassador Byroade is proceeding just about right.” He noted that “I also sought to discourage him from using this ‘back channel’ too much, preferring regular channels with highest restricted indicators where necessary.”↩