[Page 548]

257. Airgram From the Embassy in the Philippines to the Department of State 1

SUBJECT

  • Senator Aquino’s Views on Martial Law and the Political Future of President Marcos

REF

  • Manila 87382

A–244

Summary

In a private conversation on September 12 with the Political Counselor and another Embassy political officer Liberal Party (LP) Senator Benigno S. Aquino, Jr. stated that he believed President Marcos would declare martial law in order to stay in power. Aquino said Marcos is faced with serious economic problems as a result of the floods and the Quasha decision, which Aquino thinks will have a severe dampening effect on foreign investment. With rapidly worsening law and order and Communist dissident problems added to these economic woes, Aquino believes that Marcos must take strong actions in the near future and that these will include martial law. If the President follows this course, Aquino said that, “for the good of the country,” he will support Marcos. However, Aquino pointed out, martial law could backfire on the President, and Aquino expressed doubts that the GOP has sufficient resources to carry out martial law successfully. As for his own political ambitions, Aquino believes that the possibilities of his becoming head of government by legitimate means are quickly diminishing, and he is accordingly keeping open an option to lead an anti-Marcos revolution in alliance with the Communists.3

During a protracted luncheon conversation with two Embassy officers on September 12, LP Secretary General Senator Benigno S. Aquino, Jr., [Page 549]a leading presidential aspirant and principal critic of President Marcos, expounded on his views of Marcos’ political future. (Aquino’s comments on his connections with the Communists are reported in a separate airgram.)

Aquino stated that he has no doubt that President Marcos intends to remain in power. He was less certain of how the President would do this. Presidential elections in 1973 seemed to Aquino to be low on the scale of priority for Marcos; however, Imelda Marcos would almost certainly win if she ran since the President could fill the ballot boxes with fake votes and employ other illegitimate means of insuring her success. As Aquino believes that the Liberals would be powerless to prevent this from happening and could do little more than protest, Senator Aquino showed very little interest in his own ambitions for the Liberal Party nomination next year. A second Marcos alternative is to stay in office for two more years through the adoption of the synchronization of elections in 1975 proposal that pro-Marcos delegates are presently floating around Con-Con. But Aquino is unsure of Marcos’ ability to completely control Con-Con. He said that Marcos had spent ten million pesos so far in his successful effort to control the Con-Con, but, nevertheless, must be very disappointed with the relatively narrow margin in his favor in the recent vote defeating a draft provision to ban him and his spouse from holding the positions of President or Prime Minister (see Manila 8452).

Aquino believes that martial law is the most likely means Marcos will use in order to stay in power. Aquino said that he would support Marcos if this is the course he adopts. Since the law and order and economic situation is deteriorating so rapidly, in Aquino’s view, the good of the country requires strong measures on the part of the Central Government. The growing threat from the dissidents, the worsening law and order problem, the serious economic setback that has resulted from the floods in central Luzon and the probable ill effects of the Quasha decision of the Supreme Court on the country’s foreign investment climate were cited by Aquino as reasons why stronger central government action is needed. Such action means martial law. Were he President, Aquino indicated that he would not hesitate to take such strong action and would, for example, execute several corrupt officials at the Luneta Park in Manila as a lesson to other officials that he meant business.

[Omitted here is discussion of Philippine politics.]

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL 23 PHIL. Confidential. Drafted by Political Counselor John D. Forbes on September 20, cleared by Political Officer George T. Kalaris, and approved by Maestrone. Also sent to Djakarta, Taipei, Tokyo, Hong Kong, CINCPAC for POLAD, and CINCPACREPPHIL.
  2. Dated September 16.
  3. Aquino’s revelations about his meeting with Jose Maria Sison, Chairman of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Philippines/Marxist–Leninist (CPP/ML), in which they discussed the possibility of forming a broad united front in opposition to the Marcos administration, are reported in airgram A–245, September 21. (Ibid.)