Before last month's elections, imprisoned former senator Benigno Aquino was held in a small room with television, stereo, shelves of books and an adjoining bath. The guards watching over him were relatively few and friendly.
Now, according to his sister Lupita Concio, prison authorities have begun to padlock his room each night and groups of five or six - instead of the usual single guard - have begun to escort Aquino during his exercise period.
Concio herself recently also ran into fresh problems. Sheis a talented film director who won several movie and television awards. But almost immediately after the election, the government withdrew its nomination for her award-winning film "Once a Moth" to be screened this month at an international film festival at Tashkent, in the Soviet Union.
This week, Concio said she was told by her producer that she could not return to her job directing a weekly television series. The government had "banned me from TV," she quoted the producer as saying.
Since President Ferdinand Marcos' victory in a disputed national assembly election April 7, his lieutenants have jailed several key dissident leaders or canceled their jobs or overseas travel rights.
In the unhappy silence that fell over the martial law opponents here, the prospect of Vice President Mondale's visit to Manila provided hopes that the American might have some wap of rescuing them from one of the worst periods of arbitrary rule since martial law began in 1972.
When Mondale arrived for a short visit this week, he told Marcos in very diplomatic terms that Manila's relations with Washington and its ability to get aid from the U.S. Congress would suffer if Marcos did not loosen his grip on his domestic critics.
Just how the usually flexible philippine leader will react to this message is not clear. His opponents' success in getting as much as 40 percent of last month's Manila vote has seemed, for the moment, to stiffen his attitude toward internal dissent and its most important leader, Aquino.
Some Aquino supporters, such as former senator Jovito Salonga, say they fear Mondale's visit gave Filipinos the impression that Washington stood behind Marcos despite the recent arrests and charges of government vote fraud.
"What I saw on TV was Mondale signing millions of dollars in loans, and from the viewpoint of the people, it is an act of legitimization," said Slonga, woh declined a U.S. Embassy invitation to join other dissidents who met with the vice president.
Aquino, once thought the leading contender to succeed Marcos as president, has been in prison on subversion, arms possession and murder charges since the first day of martial law.
Last December, Aquino's sister Concio was allowed to leave the Philippines for a Hong Kong and Tokyo vacation. Now she has been barred from overseas travel. According to a document signed by Immigration Commissioner Edmundo Reyes and made available by dissident sources, about 460 people have been banned from leaving the country without Reyes' permission.*
The list appears to include all of the 21 opposition candidates who ran for the National Assembley last month in Manila. They received from 900.000 to 1.2 million votes each. Concio is on the list, along with Aquino's teenage son. The names of Aquino's four daugthers and his wife, Cory, do not appear, however.
People who have seen Aquino recently say they think the new harassment by the government has led him to reconsider his earlier determination not to accept exile, if Marcos offered it to him. His wife is thought to favor exile, even if it removes him as a symbol of martial law repression, but Aquino's friends are unsure now if Marcos will ever offer it. The president has often said he can do nothing until the military tribunal still hearing the case and the appeal courts have spoken.
In the meantime, says Salonga, whose name is also on the travel black list, martial law opponents will devote themselves to quiet organizing. The election ruckus has convinced nearly everyone that it will be a long time before Marcos experiments with voting again.
"The Liberal Party (one of the two major pre-martial law parties) is going to reorganize in the provinces," Salonga said. Many Liberal Party members were active in the anti-Marcos "laban" (fight) election slate in Manila last month, but there was little active resistance to Marcos-backed candidates outside the capital.
"They don't have so much access to the news," Salonga said, "and they are scared of the military. The soldiers are not so obvious in Manila, but they are quite apparent in the provinces."
Salonga said the opposition's high point was an election eve "noise barage," in which people all over the city created an explosion of honking horns, beating pots and punding car fenders. But the demonstration gave Marcos a justification for the swift arrest of about 50 young dissident leaders on election day, and for further arrests of nearly 600 people who marched peacefully, but without a permit, two days after the election to protest alleged vote fraud.
Marcos has released most of the marchers, but seven senior leaders, including four of the opposition assembly candidates, remain in detention.
In the month since, the streets have been quiet and Marcos' most vocal opponents subdued.
Marcos' friends and enemies agree that every opposition group suffers from a Philippine distaste for political issues far greater than the idealogical apathy found in the United States. Political ties here have usually been based almost solely on cliques formed among friends and relatives. To build an effective coalition, as the dissidents are now attempting to do, on issues such as restoration of a free press and independent legislature, presents great difficulties.
The indealogical indifference also hinders the New People's Army, the small Communist group trying to organize peasants in Luzon. A former leader of the central Luzon "Huk" rebels, who now works for Marcos, Louis Jaruc, recalled his often successful organizing formula of developing personal relations and very simple issues like the price of rice.
Marcos appears to have reduced protests from a more powerful foe, the Roman Catholic Church, by curtailing arrests of leftist priests and nuns. He openly cultivates Manila's Cardinal Jaime Sin. He went to see the Cardinal after the election and followed his advice to cancel a victory parade that Marcos' wife, head of the winning ticket for the assembly from Manila, wanted to organize.
"The people won't stand for it," Sin reportedly told Marcos, alluding to the withspread charges that the vote was rigged.
But Sin rarely utters a critical word in public, and Marcos appears to retain a majority of support throughout the country through his success at curbing crime and pushing land reform and rural development projects. Farm and factory workers are not organized or angry enough to challenge the government, even though their right to strike has been taken away and "the price of gasoline has gone up 600 percent, while they still only make 10 pesos (about $1.37) a day," said a nun who has worked with the poor.
"I think people are intimidated," said University of the Philippines Professor Salvador Lopez, a former foreign secretary. "The Filipinos are a patient and long-suffering people. They don't get angry too quickly. It took 300 years to throw out the spaniards. When Latin American countries were becoming independent, we were still under the colonialist [WORD ILLEGIBLE] with Cuba. The mention of Cuba is nostalgic to us. Cuba is going all over the world now, showing what kind of country it is."
Although Lopez met with Mondale and expressed hopes the vice president could help change things, he is not happy with the way the Americans, the Philippines' last colonial masters, have behaved in the recent past. "This regime could not have come about without at least the tolerance of the U.S.," he said. "When martial law was declared, (then U.S. Ambassador Henry A.) Byroade was so quiet. Not a peep out of him."
The 45-day election campaign during which Marcos lifted some restraints to soothe his critics both at home and in the United States, led many dissidents to hope the end of martial law might be in sight. "Now they've really tightened up," said Concio. "It is very vulgar. No more finesse."
Many of Marcos' enemies paradoxically think only he has the personal authority and political skill to bring back the old freedoms, and so the most recent turnabout worries them greatly.
"I keep telling him," said Lopez, who served under Marcos as ambassador to Washington before martial law, "that since you brought us out, you should bring us back. Otherwise you bear the responsibility to future generations for the violence and bloodshed that would follow any violent overthrow of the regime"
Vice President Mondale, in Jakarta, praised Indonesia's release of some of its political prisoners. Story, A-30.