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

84423. For Ambassador from Assistant Secretary Green. Ref: Manila 4379.2

While I can sympathize with your desire to challenge Aquino on these matters,3 my own judgment would be strongly negative. His 44 points apparently lay out the foreign policy framework for his campaign for a presidential nomination. As such, they are so drafted as to seem more pro-Filipino than anti-American and leave plenty of room for maneuver. While you are the better judge, I would imagine the points would receive a good local press. Thus, I doubt we can gain much by attacking him on these points, and we would run serious risk of appearing to attempt to inject ourselves into domestic political conflicts.
His follow-up remarks on the relationship of the bases to the Vietnam conflict is, of course, a different matter and distinctly un-helpful. Nevertheless, I feel we must avoid public discussion of these matters as much as possible. We have sent you our standard press guidance in State 082955 and I believe we must adhere to that line, particularly at this time, and “no comment” any further detailed questions or speculation on the role of the bases other than to refer to the Bohlen–Serrano Agreement. We are sending a septel for your use with Romulo, though I fear it is not much more forthcoming.
Finally, I am concerned about the nature of the attack you would launch on Aquino. It seems to me he would almost have to categorically deny its truth. The consequences of such a public confrontation are hard to foresee but I cannot see how they would serve our interests. In this connection, we also have in mind the consequences that followed from Bill Blair’s remarks directed towards Speaker Laurel.
All in all, I hope you will decide not to use the material.
  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 557, Country Files, Far East, Philippines, Vol. IV. Confidential; Immediate; Exdis. Drafted by Lowman, and approved by Green, Wilson, and Hummel.
  2. Telegram 4379 from Manila, May 12, reported Byroade’s desire to reply to Philippine Senator Aquino’s criticism of the U.S. military base in the Philippines. (Ibid.)
  3. Senator Benigno S. Aquino, Jr., Secretary-General of the opposition Liberal Party and a leading contender for the Presidency in 1973, strongly criticized Philippine national security dependence on the United States, the status of U.S. bases in the Philippines in general, and their use to support the war in Vietnam in particular. Airgram A–170 from Manila, May 30, among other messages, describes Aquino’s policy initiative and criticism. (Ibid., RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL 1 PHIL)