Philippine vote: guns, money
Guns and money will once again play an important role in February's Philippine presidential election. Both the money -- perhaps as much as half a billion dollars -- and the guns will come from a mixture of public and private sources. President Ferdinand Marcos's party will have the overwhelming majority of both.Skip to next paragraph
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President Marcos, an aide says, will spend about 2 billion pesos ($106 million) in ``private funds'' on the campaign -- and will add another billion if necessary. Most of the money will come from the Marcos family itself, the aide said. The rest will come from what he jocularly called the Marcoses' ``captive group'' of businessmen -- friends (often called ``cronies'' here) such as Roberto Benedicto and Eduardo Cojuangco.
In addition to this, the aide noted, there will be government money from sources like the Ministry of Public Works and the Ministry of Human Settlements, which is headed by Mrs. Marcos. Nongovernment estimates of the total amount available from $265 million to $531 million. The average Filipino's per capita income is calculated to be $650 a year.
Just before Christmas, there were indications that the government was assembling the official component of its electoral war chest. The Central Bank reported that government borrowing from the bank had jumped suddenly by $202 million. The May 1984 elections had been preceded by a spurt in government borrowings (believed to be election-related) of $249 million. But this time the bank later dismissed the report as a clerical error.
About the same time, however, the government announced the disbursement of $27 million in unexplained financial aid to local governments.
The opposition ticket of Corazon Aquino and Salvador Laurel is hoping to raise about $37 million. Most of this will probably come from Manila businessmen, from wealthy individuals like Mrs. Aquino's brother, Jose Cojuangco (the cousin of Marcos confidant Eduardo Cojuangco), and from Filipinos overseas.
Jose Cojuangco and another opposition leader, Ramon Mitra, returned last week from a fund-raising drive in the United States. Mr. Marcos recently claimed that Aquino has foreign backing, but so far has not substantiated this.
The net result of this electoral spending spree will be further aggravation of the country's economic problems. The massive inflow of money into the economy after the last election was held responsible for an inflation rate that peaked in October 1984 at 63 percent.
As for the role of guns, in early December Brig. Gen. Isidoro de Guzman was appointed senior military commander in Central Luzon. The move, military sources say, is a clear indication that the government plans to use military commanders to ensure a ruling party win.
De Guzman, a reputed Marcos loyalist, has been in Central Luzon before. His military record shows him stationed there between 1976 and 1982. During that time, a military source says, he developed a reputation for ``delivering the vote'' to the ruling party in elections. This was particularly noteworthy, the source says, because the area is considered traditionally pro-opposition.
The other senior military commander in Central Luzon is also a hard-core Marcos supporter. Gen. Antonio Palafox, commander of the Fifth Division, first worked for Marcos in the early 1960s, when he was a member of what was then the Philippine Senate.
Central Luzon will be a challenge for the government this time. Ruling party strategists note that it has about 2.7 million voters. But it is the home area of both Mrs. Aquino and her assassinated husband, opposition leader Benigno Aquino Jr. Marcos's friend, Eduardo Cojuangco, the ruling party chairman for the region, has been generous with his money -- even the local priests receive a monthly stipend from him. But the Aquino campaign generated enormous crowds during its swing through the area.