Filipinos watch political circus with mixed feelings. Acquittal of Gen. Ver rouses anger, launching of Aquino campaign raises hopes

It was a day of mixed emotions for many Filipinos. Anger over the acquittal of Gen. Fabian Ver blended with hope over Corazon Aquino's bid for the presidency.

Hours after top Philippine armed forces officials were declared not guilty Monday in the 1983 assassination of opposition leader Benigno Aquino Jr., President Ferdinand Marcos signed into law a bill calling for a snap presidential election Feb. 7, 1986, and Mrs. Aquino (known as ``Cory'' here) announced her candidacy.

Demonstrations continued Tuesday in protest of the verdict clearing General Ver and 25 others accused of involvement in the Aquino assassination. Hundreds of demonstrators marched in Manila's financial district, Makati, bearing a coffin draped in black to symbolize what they perceive to be the death of justice.

Meanwhile, just hours after Mr. Marcos signed the election bill, Mrs. Aquino's announcement was greeted by applause and chants of ``Cory, Cory'' in a room packed with her followers and the press. Some people in the crowd were teary-eyed. Aquino is described here as the ``emotional favorite'' in the election.

``For 20 years we have had one of the most brilliant Filipinos'' as President, Aquino said, ``and yet look what has happened to our country. It has been devastated. It is no longer a question of one politician against another. People are fed up.'' Aquino added that credibility is the fundamental issue in the presidential campaign.

Aquino has offered to share her ticket with Salvador Laurel, president of the United Nationalist Democratic Organization, an umbrella organization for 12 opposition groups. But Mr. Laurel, who has long been known to have presidential ambitions, has not yet said whether he would be willing to serve as vice-president.

Laurel has said, however, that there are ``very bright'' prospects for talks between Aquino and himself. His right-hand man, former Sen. Rene Espina, told the Monitor that ``in the end, patriotism will prevail over bickering. . . .''

The mood among many Filipinos is hopeful. ``I like Cory. She may bring about change,'' said Juan Santos, a young hotel bellhop. A taxi driver said he would vote for Aquino, and two waiters said they would, too, because they like her.

``I'll support whoever will fight Marcos,'' said a hotel employee named Alex Astrolabio.

But a worker named Mr. Rodriguez said Mrs. Aquino lacks experience, ``so I will vote for Marcos.''

A military officer said he, too, would support Marcos because Aquino is an ``unknown factor.''

A worker named Charlie Mendoza said he would support Aquino, but he expressed pessimism over her chances at the polls: ``She will not win. Look at the acquittal [of Ver].''

Some analysts say that, with Ver back as chief of staff, Marcos will get the support he needs to win.

The feeling prevails here that Marcos will not allow himself to lose.

An Asian diplomat here said Aquino needs to do her homework and firm up her positions on crucial issues such an economic recovery program and the US military bases in the Philippines.

A student activist said she will not only vote for Aquino but will also campaign for her.

But the election, some observers say, could still be called off. After Marcos signed the election bill Tuesday, a group of lawyers and oppositionists filed a petition with the Supreme Court questioning the bill's constitutionality. They argued that, according to the Constitution, Marcos must resign before an election can be held. Marcos recently submitted a resignation letter effective only after the winner is declared and sworn in.

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