Marcos voices his support for hard-line forces in military. Philippine leader will reinstate Ver if general is aquitted in murder trial
President Ferdinand Marcos has dealt a blow to moderate forces within the military, to religious and political opponents, and possibly to the United States. The Philippine President announced Tuesday that a ``formal agreement'' had been made for his close aide, Gen. Fabian Ver, to resume office as armed forces chief of staff if acquitted of complicity in the August 1983 assassination of opposition leader Benigno Aquino Jr.Skip to next paragraph
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The announcement undercuts Lt. Gen. Fidel Ramos, General Ver's temporary replacement and longtime rival, who has been trying to dismantle parts of Ver's military power structure. It also comes as a blow to the Roman Catholic Church and opposition leaders, who had supported General Ramos's efforts. And it will probably cause disquiet in Washington.
Tuesday's announcement was not the first step the President has made recently to reinforce Ver and his supporters.
Earlier this month, a well-informed source says, the President extended indefinitely the tenure of the commanders of the Army, Air Force, and Navy.
This is an abrupt change from normal procedure: Once officers reach retirement point, service is usually only extended for six-month periods. The Army commander, Gen. Josephus Ramas, is thought to be Ver's most intimate associate in the armed forces. The other two commanders are also thought to be Ver loyalists.
The two moves effectively turn Ramos into a lame duck. They also appear to confirm the belief that Ver's influence with the President was not affected when the general temporarily relinquished office pending trial late last year. But, if the public or US backlash against the moves is too strong, the President may yet modify his position.
At least two factors probably influenced the President's actions.
The most obvious is the close and longstanding relationship between Mr. Marcos and Ver. They are relatives -- Marcos is a distant cousin of Ver on his mother's side -- and townmates. And Ver has been Marcos's alter ego for the past 20 years: The general's enemies and supporters agree that he never does anything without the President's knowledge.
The second consideration probably relates to President Marcos's assessment of the threat from communist insurgents, and the best way to handle this.
``Judging from decisions that have come from his office recently, the President seems to be of the opinion that the present military leadership must be retained because of the [security] situation here,'' said a senior member of the Marcos administration, speaking long before Tuesday's announcement.
By the present leadership, the official explained, he meant Ver and his colleagues.
The official expressed his suspicion that this opinion was being put forward to President Marcos by Ver, General Ramas, and their associates -- all of whom are thought to favor a tough approach to insurgency and dissidence.
Since January, the official continued, the President's attitude toward street demonstrations has also hardened.
``Now he says that we have compromised too much in the past,'' said the official. ``I don't know why. His perception of the situation in the country is probably different from most of the rest of us.''