President Ferdinand Marcos, apparently stung by recent statements about his government from the U.S. State Department and in last Sunday's presidential debate, vowed today that his administration would not be "overthrown either by the bullet or the ballot" or play the "pet dog" of any western power.
In a speech to Army reservists, Marcos also said the Philippine armed forces remained resilient and strong despite the release of an official fact-finding board report implicating 25 military men and one civilian in a conspiracy last year to assassinate opposition leader Benigno S. Aquino.
Marcos later told senior officers at a "command meeting" that the temporary replacement of armed forces chief of staff Gen. Fabian Ver and two other top generals had "created no vacuum" in the military's fight against Communist insurgents, Moslem secessionist rebels and crime syndicates. He said that "nothing has changed in the policies and operational plans of the armed forces."
At ceremonies marking the seventh anniversary of his formation of the Army Reserve Command, Marcos told representatives of 1.2 million military reservists in the Philippines, "We all feel here an inescapable sense of sadness about the developments of the past few days that have placed some of our men in uniform under public doubt and accusation."
He referred to the "distressing development" that four members of a fact-finding board he appointed to investigate Aquino's murder had issued findings Wednesday listing the 25 military men as "indictable for the premeditated killing" of the opposition leader and of Rolando Galman, a small-time hoodlum allegedly framed in the plot. A dissenting report by the board's chairman implicated only seven of the 25 in the assassination conspiracy.
Marcos again obliquely criticized the majority report's findings when he praised the military men for "admirably" submitting themselves to the judicial system for the "crimes now strangely imputed to them."
But the Philippine president reserved his sharpest comments for the recent statements from the United States about his government's stability and its handling of the Aquino assassination findings.
He said he was "shocked" when a questioner in the last presidential debate asked President Reagan about the prospect that the Marcos government could be overthrown.
Reagan replied that although some things in the Philippines "do not look good to us from the standpoint right now of democratic rights," the alternative was "a large Communist movement to take over the Philippines."
Shouting into microphones during a televised speech, Marcos said, "The answer to that should have been that there is no indication the Marcos administration can be overthrown either by the bullet or the ballot." He said the idea that "several thousand Communist rebels" could threaten his 19-year-old government was "certainly imagination of the wildest degree."
Marcos also denounced what he said was a tendency of the western press lately to classify the Philippines with certain Latin American republics -- he said he did not want to call them "banana republics" -- and compare his country with the likes of Chile, Argentina, Nicaragua and El Salvador. "Please spare us this generosity," Marcos said.
He also lashed out at the State Department for comments about the Aquino assassination findings. When Marcos accepted the dissenting report on Tuesday, the State Department said Washington expected the majority report to receive the same treatment: the prosecution of the accused by the Philippine judicial system.
Then, on Wednesday, when Marcos did grudgingly order the prosecution of those named in the more damaging majority report, the State Department praised him and hailed "the vigor of democratic traditions in the Philippines."
The State Department, however, went on to say, "The United States trusts that, as President Marcos has promised, those responsible for Sen. Aquino's murder, no matter who they may be, will be held accountable for their crime."
With evident sarcasm, Marcos replied today, "We thank the State Department for articulating the congratulations of his Reagan's government for the actions that we have taken, but may we inform our friends the Americans that we are not doing things here in order to satisfy the State Department or the Americans, but in order to meet the requirements of the rule of law provided for in our constitution."
He said he appreciated "such a strong and generous partner" as the United States. "But we certainly don't want to appear before our Asian brothers as if we were the pet dog of any western ally."
Western diplomats said it was unclear whether the initial U.S. comments had influenced Marcos' handling of the majority report. But they noted his apparently reluctant acceptance of it when he coldly told the four fact-finding board members Wednesday: "I hope you can live with your consciences after what you have done." After giving them a receipt for the report in a four-minute meeting, he told them curtly, "You may go."