Marcos can get Filipinos to rally but not to cheer
The Philippines' electoral campaign began with a bang this week. President Ferdinand Marcos's political party turned out a rally that was a tour de force of machine politics - a display of sophisticated organization and impressive financing.Skip to next paragraph
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The large gathering in a Manila park was also the setting for Mr. Marcos to resume the political offensive just before the May 14 legislative elections and after seven months of turmoil following the assassination of opposition leader Benigno Aquino.
But the rally highlighted a big problem for Marcos's New Society Movement (known as KBL): Can the party turn its money into popular enthusiasm and votes?
In a long, aggressive speech, Marcos strongly criticized his political opposition. In particular, he claimed that the underground Communist Party of the Philippines and its armed wing, the New People's Army, had been organized in the central Luzon province of Tarlac in the late 1960s with the help of opposition politicians.
''If necessary,'' he warned, ''I will name names.'' He did not need to: Tarlac is Aquino's home province and former political stronghold.
The charge was old, but its timing striking. It came less than a week after the government version of the Aquino murder - that he had been killed by a small-time gangster in communist pay - began to crumble, and suspicion shifted to the military escorts who met Aquino on his return home. In reviving it, the President seemed to be signaling that he would not consider the Aquino name sacrosanct, and that he was finally emerging from the semi-isolation that had begun shortly before the Aquino killing.
As he made the attack, Marcos looked fitter than he has for many months. Senior ministers interviewed recently admit that the President's health has been erratic in the last year, but claim ignorance of the cause.
An analyst in Washington, however, recently told this correspondent that Marcos apparently has been receiving dialysis treatment for a kidney ailment. In recent months he has been consulting a faith healer. The healer, to the reportedly intense irritation of some Marcos followers, is now running for election on the KBL's slate.
Also of high interest is that the the President's oldest daughter, Imee Marcos Manotoc, is running for the National Assembly. She will run in the ''family'' home province of Ilocos Norte, where her brother is already governor. Imelda Marcos, the President's powerful wife and a minister in the Cabinet, noted that Marcos had said that he was opposed to the idea of a dynasty. She reportedly added that her daughter's candidacy was the people's will.
One person who is definitely not running is Mrs. Marcos. There was doubt about her electoral intentions almost until the last minute.
This was partly due to the fact that she has several times in the past announced her irrevocable decision not to run, and then changed her mind. It was also partly due to a KBL-inspired campaign of speculation that Mrs. Marcos would once again change her mind in the face of ''overwhelming public clamor.''
As it happened, the drama of the occasion was undermined slightly by the fact that her speech, entitled ''The liberation of the spirit,'' was printed and distributed to at least some of the faithful before she arrived at the rally.
''My countrymen,'' the speech began, ''I am not a candidate. In declining to heed your clamor, I do not shirk the burdens of service to you and country.
''Your love has set me free,'' the speech went on, ''to rise above partisan politics (and) your confidence has given me the courage to enlist in the authentic revolution, the revolution of the poor, to free our people from the bondage of deprivation.''