Philippine surprise: elections so far so clean, but opposition wary as tallies roll in
Initial results in the Philippine legislative elections surpass the worst fears of the Marcos government and the wildest dreams of the opposition. There is, however, still plenty of time for the final tally to be falsified, and many observers expect this to happen in a significant number of cases.Skip to next paragraph
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But the political machine of President Ferdinand Marcos's ruling party appears to have been swamped by a surge of popular resentment since last year's slaying of opposition leader Benigno Aquino Jr.
The government, one Western observer commented, got a free election ''whether it wanted it or not.''
Both government and opposition were in a state of shock after Monday's polling. Results are still coming in very slowly. A voting-trends analysis released Thursday by the National Citizens' Movement for Free Elections (Namfrel) shows the ruling New Society Movement (KBL) with about 49 percent of the vote.
The main opposition group, the United Democratic Opposition (Unido), appears to have about 34 percent of the vote.
If sustained, the present trend would give only half of the 187 National Assembly seats to Marcos's party, with Unido receiving about one-third, and other groups dividing the remaining seats.
President Marcos, however, predicted Tuesday that Unido would ultimately have 40 to 45 seats, compared with 63 seats predicted by Namfrel. He noted Unido had done well in the cities, ''But in the countryside we have won.'' (Very few results have come in from the provinces.)
Most opposition leaders claim that this prediction can only be fulfilled by fraud. Some foreign observers share this view.
''I will be very doubtful if the opposition's share of seats drops down to 40 ,'' said a Western observer, speaking on the condition that his name or embassy not be identified. With 40 seats, the opposition could bring an embarrassing impeachment bill against Marcos.
One KBL leader said the setback was due in part to last-minute intervention by the Roman Catholic Church. ''They read pastoral letters from the pulpits advising the people to ask themselves who brought on high prices and inflation. I don't think that was fair,'' said Gerry Espina, a deputy minister and KBL candidate for Manila.
Other KBL leaders are said to see more sinister forces behind the setback.
''The First Lady (Imelda Marcos) feels that the opposition could not have done this on their own,'' said a senior KBL official who asked not to be named. ''There must have been some foreign assistance.''
Mrs. Marcos has suffered a greater blow to her pride than most KBL leaders. She personally committed herself to obtaining a clean sweep in the 21 seats of the national capital region. At the moment, according to Namfrel, KBL candidates are trailing the opposition by 16 to five.
The setback was not due to any lack of effort by the KBL. Their spending appears to have been massive. Joe Concepcion of Namfrel estimates the KBL devoted at least 2 billion pesos ($142 million) to the campaign.
In a campaign rally in the central Philippine city of Cebu the week before the election, Mrs. Marcos told the crowd she was offering ''prizes'' of 50,000 pesos ($3,500) to each barangay (village or district) and 100,000 pesos ($7,000) to each town in the province of Cebu, which delivered a straight KBL vote on polling day.