Interview with Aquino: `So far I am succeeding my way'
The Philippine opposition will keep its civil disobedience campaign going ``for as long as it takes'' to bring down the Marcos government, opposition leader Corazon Aquino said in an interview yesterday. The campaign -- economic boycotts and nationwide protests -- will be intensified in coming weeks and, Mrs. Aquino hopes, will start to show results in the next two or three months. Aquino added that there will be no reconciliation or compromise with President Ferdinand Marcos, despite the suspicions of some of her staff members that this was the real mission of United States special envoy Philip Habib.
In the interview, Aquino also said that she would respect the treaty for US bases in the Philippines until it expires in 1991 and then would look at her options; that she was in touch with members of the military; and that if her nonviolent approach did not satisfy the people, she would probably be ``marginalized'' by the left. Below are extracts from the interview; some questions were submitted in advance.
Some of your supporters seemed disappointed at the mild program of action you presented last Sunday. Why the slow buildup of pressure?
Yes, some people must be disappointed. They are angry. This man [Mr. Marcos] is always brazen when he assassinates a man or the democratic process. . . . But others are pleased that my program was peaceful . . . and that I was not riding on passionate outrage, but leading and controlling a consciously committed mass. Personally, I distrust passion. . . . I prefer the slow buildup, the careful remobilization of the forces I called forth during the campaign.
What do you mean by nonviolent action, and how are you preparing for it?
Peaceful rallies, marches, vigils, masses, increasing the boycott list. Making the people know that their power can reach anywhere -- even to places protected by the gun, . . . gradually but inexorably isolating this regime.
I will leave Marcos in the palace surrounded by barbed wire. . . . It will reach a point where the nation will realize that power has moved entirely to me and that Malacaang [the presidential palace] has ceased to be the seat of power.
To a great extent, the mass nonviolent action will be spontaneously generated -- like my campaign.
How long will this take?
It's realistic to assume that if people don't see results in, say, two to three months, they will opt for more violent methods.
How do you feel about the prospect of head-on confrontation with, say, the armed forces?
Like Ninoy [her husband, slain opposition leader Benigno Aquino Jr.], I believe that violence will only beget violence. I will not be part of any violent protest. I have made that clear.
One of your aides said last Sunday that the rally that day was aimed at one person, President Reagan. Is that your view?
No, no. It was for me to find out whether I still had the tremendous support I had on election day. It was not just to show the Americans. But it was also partly to show Mr. Marcos.
How important is the US attitude toward President Marcos?
Very important. We Filipinos have to exercise the necessary pressure on Marcos. But it would certainly help our cause if the Americans would stop supporting Mr. Marcos.
When I spoke to Mr. Habib, he said he understood how concerned I was by President Reagan's first statement. I corrected him. I said I was not concerned by the statement, I was upset.
Are you going to see Habib again?
Yes. He asked for a second meeting. I really don't know why.
Your aides say they suspect Habib was coming here to try to negotiate a reconciliation between you and Mr. Marcos. Do you feel that? And is reconciliation possible?
They say Habib is a negotiator, and I guess that's what a negotiator would do. . . . [But] before Mr. Habib came to see me, I let it be known through friends in Washington that if his mission is to effect a reconciliation between myself and Marcos . . . he had better save himself the trip. Mr. Habib got the message, he told me. He assured me that cooperation between myself and Mr. Marcos was never his mission.
Would you be prepared to take on the role of a loyal opposition?
Out of the question. We won and I will sit, whatever the price I must pay. Mr. Marcos is finished. I believe this has dawned even on the Americans.
Have the recent positions taken by the Reagan administration affected your view of US bases in the Philippines?
After the election, I did mention to some of the [US] observers that I wished they wouldn't talk so much about the two bases, because many Filipinos are beginning to think -- and rightly so -- that the bases are here to help Mr. Marcos.
But I'm keeping to my word to respect the base treaty [US-Philippine Military Bases Agreement of 1947] until [it expires in] 1991. Then all options are open.
Have you received any messages directly from Washington?
Last night [Wednesday], [US Sen.] Ted Kennedy called to say that I'd be happy to know that the overwhelming majority of senators would be voting to declare the election fraudulent.
Have you had any contact with the Philippine military, either the reform group or mainstream commanders?
I had direct contacts with RAM [Reform the Armed forces Movement] before the election. Some of them, in fact, were worried about my security. . . . They promised to let me know if they heard of any plans to eliminate me.
Have you had contacts with them since the election?
Not directly, but we're in touch.
Do you fear a drift to the radical left [groups that support the use of violence, including the Communist Party and members of the mass leftist organization called ``Bayan'']?
If I fail to remove Marcos and vindicate the people's verdict by peaceful nonviolent action, my methods will be discredited. And if anger persists I will be marginalized, and others will take over leadership of the movement.
Do you at any point envisage a tactical alliance with the left?
I never thought of [this], and now that I am just starting with my nonviolent action, I am naturally not giving it any thought. So far, I am succeeding my way. I cannot think of a tactical alliance with the left because I represent the idea that there is a peaceful, nonviolent way to dislodge a dictatorship. . . . A tactical left alliance damages my argument. If I succeed with them, we will never know if peace can really produce freedom.