Philippines President Ferdinand Marcos will undoubtedly claim victory on June 16 in what he calls a general election, but which local and foreign observers believe to be a nocontest exercise in public relations.
Debate on the election, which is likely to extend Marcos's tenure by another six years, has been marked by a strong anti-American flavor. Nationalist accuse US Ambassador to Manila Richard W. Murphy of interference in internal politics. Well-known lawyer and human-rights advocate Jose Diokno, addressing a rally, said that the American ambassador tried to convince some opposition leaders to give up boycotting in exchange for 30 percent of the seats in the National Assembly and possibly the prime ministership. This was, however, denied by a US Embassy spokesman.
The Roman Catholic Church was also dragged in when Marcos declared the failure to vote was tantamount to mortal sin. But the influential Jaime Cardinal Sin issued a statement that a Christian voter is not morally obliged to vote "when the very act of voting is seen by him to be a violation of moral truth itself because he is convinced that election process is manipulated to produce predetermined results."
Observers believe that an election will legitimize Marcos's authoritarian rule, thus pleasing his American supporters.Although the Reagan administration is perceived here as having more or less dispensed with the human-rights yardstick, it has advised Marcos to institute political reforms and win some form of public mandate.
All the principal opposition figures and political parties have boycotted the President's election, charging that absolute control over media and the election commission make an honest vote impossible. Marcos put up one of his own supporters, a former military man, as an official opponent.
Those opposed to Marcos declare that the boycott will graduate into massive civil disobedience, including nonpayment of taxes. In politically sensetive areas, the outlawed communist New People's Army is expected to disrupt elections.
Marcos responded with a threat to imprison those who refuse to vote. Considering that 4-to-5 million nonvoters in the April 7 plebiscite are thus liable, it seems unlikely that the government can execute its threat.The main object of the warning is intimidation. Civil servants have been threatened with dismissal if they refuse to vo te.