319. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • The Vice President
  • Father James B. Reuter, S.J., Director, Episcopal Commission on Mass Media
  • Lee T. Stull, Charge d’Affaires, a.i.
  • James A. Johnson, Executive Assistant to the Vice President
  • A. Denis Clift, Assistant to the Vice President for National Security Affairs
  • Albert Eisele, Assistant to the Vice President and Press Secretary


  • Vice Presidential Visit: Meeting with Father Reuter


  • (A) Manila 6576;2 (B) Manila 55163

SUMMARY: Father Reuter, an American Jesuit who has lived in the Philippines since 1938, told the Vice President that torture of detainees is widespread and that the April 7 legislative election results were rigged. He expressed concern that the opposition is becoming more radicalized while most of the Church hierarchy remains essentially conservative. Fr. Reuter has been religious adviser to the families of President Marcos and Defense Secretary Enrile, but he is currently facing charges of subversion in connection with a Church newsletter he edited until 1976. He is generally considered a moderate among the Church’s social activists. END SUMMARY.

American Jesuit Father James Reuter met privately for half an hour May 3 with Vice President Mondale. Reuter promptly raised case of evident torture to death by military intelligence previously detailed Ref A. He gave his opinion that torture is an institutionalized method of oppression, that torture victims sometimes are eliminated to prevent testimony, and that it is inconceivable that such practices are unknown [Page 1037] to higher authority. Reuter also left data alleging that of fifty-odd detainees currently at Bicutan, 73% have been tortured.

Reuter asserted that the April 7 election was thoroughly rigged and described ballot stuffing and other methods of widespread fraud and voter intimidation. Reuter also sought an advisory opinion on a possible asylum request from an opposition candidate in that election currently in hiding (Ref B). He also described the post-election protest march and arrest of several hundred, including Jesuit Father Romeo Intengan, who is still in detention.

Reuter expressed considerable apprehension concerning the trend of events in the Philippines, which he foresees as more of current deterioration with consequent growing radicalization of opposition elements.

Noting he is Secretary of Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines, Reuter said of a total of about 73 bishops, 23 are progressive, 11–13 hard core conservative and the others more disposed to the conservative side. As a result, according to Reuter, the progressives have yet to win a majority. Their best recent showing was 34 votes on an issue put forward by Bishop Labayen, head of the Social Action Committee. (COMMENT: In January 1977, however, the Bishops’ Conference overwhelmingly approved a pastoral letter which, inter alia, deplored intimidations by PANAMIN, the government’s agency for national minority groups; expressed strong concern about recent summary deportations of foreign missionaries; and called for respect for the human rights of all groups in settling the Mindanao insurgency problem. See 77 Manila 1662).4

  1. Source: Carter Library, Donated Historical Material, Mondale Papers, Overseas Assignments—Trip Files, 1977–1980, Box 21, VP’s Visit to the Pacific, 4/29/78–5/11/78: Philippines (5/2/78–5/4/78)—Meeting with Church and Opposition Leaders [2]. Confidential. Drafted by Stull on May 4; approved by Toussaint on May 8. The meeting took place at the Philippine Plaza Hotel.
  2. Telegram 6576 from Manila, April 25, reported the common belief that findings by a joint Philippine Government-Jesuit panel on the death of a young church worker were “whitewashed.” (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D780176–0146)
  3. Telegram 5516 from Manila, April 10, discussed exploratory approaches concerning political asylum for a Philippine dissident. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D780153–1235)
  4. Telegram 1662 from Manila, February 2, 1977, reported on the Catholic Bishops Conference. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D770036–1267)