Massive crowds estimated at anywhere from 200,000 to 500,000 turned out last night for Corazon Aquino's last major rally before Friday's presidential election. The rally, held in a downtown Manila park, was probably the largest since the funeral of her husband, Benigno Aquino Jr., in August 1983.
``We have a chance to make history,'' she told the crowd in her 25-minute speech.
She summarized and offered rebuttals to the main charges leveled against her during the campaign by President Ferdinand Marcos -- notably her lack of experience, alleged links to the communist insurgency, and a purported plan to allow the secession of the large southern island of Mindanao.
She also outlined some of her own proposed policies: promotion of employment, respect for workers' rights, and the repeal of so-called repressive presidential decrees, which limit labor organizing and political activities.
In her nationwide swing (she claims to have visited 68 of the country's 74 provinces), she has drawn unexpectedly large, spontaneous crowds.
And in the last two weeks, Mrs. Aquino has taken a more aggressive tone in her speeches -- bolstered in part by reports from the United States alleging that President Marcos has unexplained wealth invested in the US and that his claim to be a World War II hero is spurious.
But one overriding feature of the Aquino campaign is its lack of organization. The Aquino machine is running on enthusiasm and euphoria, Aquino aides say.
Speaking during the rally, aides admitted that their poll-watching network -- held to be crucial in a Filipino election -- was still shaky.
One Aquino campaign worker, Ramon del Rosario, a prominent businessman, said last night that he expected the President to try to win by fraud.
``But with the massive margin of victory we are expecting, we're hoping that it [victory] will be beyond his reach.''
Other campaign workers said that they had just begun to make contingency plans for protest demonstrations, should they feel they were cheated of victory on Feb. 7.
Although some Marcos campaign organizers now admit to some apprehension about the outcome of the election, others remain very confident.
While the crowds were assembling, a senior campaign worker sat in the luxurious Manila Hotel some 50 yards away from the rally site. Asked for a crowd estimate, he was nonchalant.
``I haven't looked. A million perhaps? It doesn't matter,'' he said.
The President's final rally is scheduled in the same place on Wednesday, and the ruling party apparently intends to make it a demonstration of what its members see to be a superior organization.
``We'll take whatever her turnout is and add 25 percent,'' the Marcos campaign worker said.