Business protests jar Marcos - and foreign investors

The rash of violent antigovernment rallies in Manila's financial district has deeply disturbed the administration of Ferdinand Marcos. At a weekend meeting with the country's top local businessmen and bankers, President Marcos said that violent demonstrations have compounded the present monetary problems of the Philippines because they are being interpreted to mean a lack of political and economic stability.

''This wrongly perceived instability is interpreted by foreign investors and lenders to mean that their investments are in danger and thus they were holding back the help that they should be extending to us,'' Mr. Marcos said.

In recent weeks, in fact, several international banks and foreign investors have grown extremely anxious about their exposure in the Philippines, after the assassination of Benigno Aquino, the country's most popular opposition leader. Foreign banks, particularly the Japanese, have refused to commit fresh loans, while some foreign investors have frozen the flow of new capital. ''My parent company seems to be thinking of putting the Philippines among the ranks of some Latin American companies,'' the manager of a multinational company said.

As President Marcos admitted his problem with the businessmen, the government seems to have started clamping down on the political activities of businessmen in Makati, the country's major financial district. An official of one of the companies the President accused of instigating antigovernment rallies at the business district has been arrested.

Rogelio Pantaleon, vice-president of Ayala Corporation, is the first Makati executive to be arrested after Mr. Marcos warned that businessmen encouraging violent antigovernment demonstrations will face legal action.

Mr. Pantaleon, who has been temporarily released, faces charges of inciting to sedition. He admitted that he has published and distributed booklets on Aquino, but he said that there is nothing seditious about the straightforward reports and photos in his booklets.

Pantaleon's arrest follows the retirement of Enrique Zobel, the controversial president of Ayala Corporation, the company that created Ayala Avenue, Manila's Wall Street and the scene of recent demonstrations protesting the continued rule of Marcos.

Mr. Zobel is known for his frequent tirades against the government's economic policies, thus making him the prime target of Marcos's accusation that the ''arrogant rich and oligarchs'' have been using drug addicts, criminals, and subversives in rallies to create a revolutionary atmosphere.

Zobel, who has been named as one of the richest bankers in the world, denied that his early retirement from Ayala Corportion was made under some political pressure. He said he just wanted to devote more time to his other companies, particularly the Bank of Philippine Islands and Ayala International Corporation.

He is believed to have extended some financial help to Mr. Aquino, however, during his three-year exile in Boston. Before his fateful return to Manila, Aquino told some close friends and journalists that he did receive some help from Zobel.

In this threatening atmosphere, some companies have decided to step back from political activities. San Miguel Corporation, the Philippines' largest listed corporation, has ordered all its employees not to take part in demonstrations.

Last Friday's rally at Ayala Avenue was dispersed by antiriot police with tear gas and fire hoses, resulting in the arrest of Pantaleon and several other employees. Whether the government's tough stance against rallies will cow the Makati businessmen and business executives will be seen this week.

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