239. Telegram From the Embassy in the Philippines to the Department of State1

8351. 1. I literally do not have time prior to my departure from here for detailed reporting on a long talk with Marcos alone today, and later on with Mrs. Marcos alone, and finally with the two of them together.

2. As it turned out it was a bad day indeed to see Marcos as there were two or three hundred people in Malacanang on a whole series of important meetings and he actually had about 100 waiting for him when I left. In the turmoil I ran into Mrs. Marcos by accident and walked over to say goodbye. She took me in the music room for about an hour’s conversation. Her main concern seemed to be some doubt as to our support of the President in present circumstances, or as she put it, in his struggle to rid the country of Communist subversive operations. I told her she need have no worry on the latter, but went on to explain my concern that the President’s actions to suspend the writ coming as it did in an election period, might well be misunderstood abroad. I tried to draw her out as to what had to happen, as she saw things, before he could raise the suspension, but did not get anything very specific. She went into long stories as to the nature of their evidence, as of now, implicating Aquino and possibly others.

3. I told her I would face many questions at home, and some in which I had no answers. I said the first question that everyone would ask me is “Who did it at Plaza Miranda?”2 My answer would have to [Page 511] be the “I do not know.” The next question would be “Who do you think did it?” I told her my answer to that one would also have to be “I don’t know.” I said this would put me somewhat on the defensive in Washington which was unfortunate as there were positive things that I wanted to work on there.

4. Later on as I was sitting down with the President, Imelda asked to see him before his talk with me. When I later joined the President in his private library, he said that I had left the First Lady quite agitated and worried, with her worry centering on my remarks in the quotes above. Marcos said I must know that he had not suspended the writ solely on the Plaza Miranda incident, as he had stated publicly, that this was only the last straw. He said he was determined, during the period of the suspension of the writ, to break the back of Communist-led insurgency in the Philippines, even though this might take some time. He assured me that he would not misuse the suspension for political purposes, or against personal enemies. Interestingly, he said that it would not be difficult to have the constitutional convention extend his tenure of office, but that he was not going to do that. He said he would retire in 1973 unless at the time the country seemed in such a condition that he could not conscientiously leave the office of the President.

5. I said that from all evidence we had it appeared that his people were operating under the suspension in quite a proper and legitimate manner. I said unfortunately, however, as long as the suspension was in effect he would be accused by his enemies of misusing it no matter what he did. He said he knew that was true, but there came a time in the life of many presidents where they had to become immune to criticism and he had personally passed that stage. He repeated that the affairs of the nation under the suspension would be handled properly, and said further that in the two years he had left he was going to institute significant reforms.

6. Our conversation then turned to the long list of specifics that I had prepared to take up with him prior to my departure. These need not be reported now except for matters connected with Clark Field. Marcos told me that he would sign the transfer orders of Judge Gaddi from the Angeles area today. He said it made him wince to have to “promote” Gaddi to get him out of our hair, but he would do it, and do it right away. He also phoned the Solicitor General in my presence and directed him to take any steps necessary to get Airman Whipkey out of jail in Angeles.

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7. Imelda joined us and the three of us had a re-hash of her concern as to what I would say in Washington. It all ended amicably enough, but it is clear that she is somewhat worried. While this at times makes life a bit complicated for me here, I think I left her with just about the right amount of concern. I am not worried about the President as he is less emotionally inclined and I think respects and understands the position of the American Ambassador here far better than she. In any event, we will know in due course. I am leaving here by Pan American tomorrow. My itinerary will be sent separately.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL 15–1 PHIL. Secret; Exdis.
  2. The Plaza Miranda incident refers to an indiscriminate terrorist attack by unknown assailants who tossed two grenades there into a rally of the opposition Liberal Party on August 21. President Marcos responded by suspending the writ of habeas corpus for suspected subversives. Marcos also caused the detention of a number of persons without formal charges and immediately came under suspicion of exploiting the situation to stifle opposition elements, according to INR Intelligence Note REAN–47, September 1. (Ibid., POL 23–8 PHIL)