Cardinal Jaime Sin, the Philippines' leading cleric and a key figure in its politics, called yesterday for "a new face, a new leadership" in Manila to correct "abuses" that are feeding a growing communist insurgency.
Speaking to the National Press Club here, the outspoken Sin said there is "a linkage" between the rise of the communist-led New People's Army and the regime of President Ferdinand Marcos.
Because of "abuses," which Sin did not specify, communism is gaining ground in the Philippines, he said. "We need a new face, a new leadership in order that these abuses can be corrected," he said.
The Roman Catholic leader, a vocal critic of Marcos for a decade, refrained from citing by name any potential successors to the president. He said there are "many who could guide the destiny of our country" and at another point said he could name "thousands" of people capable of doing the job.
When asked about First Lady Imelda Marcos, Sin was more reserved, saying he did not know whether she has the "expertise and experience" to qualify her for the top post.
The ideal leader, Sin suggested, would be a popular figure such as Ramon Magsaysay, whom he described as "a poor mechanic." Magsaysay was president from 1953 to 1957 and leader of the successful campaign against the leftist rebellion of the Huks.
Sin said he conferred at length with Marcos about three weeks ago at the presidential palace, their first meeting in months. The two men were "not so pleased" with each other, Sin said, but were able to talk about their country's problems.
In a humorous reference to recurrent reports of election fraud in the Philippines, Sin quoted Marcos as admiring the American style of voting because "after the elections the results are immediately known." Sin said he replied that the Philippine style is even better because "before the elections we knew already" who had won.
Regarding the United States, Sin said "what we need is food right now" in view of conditions that he said had required the church to set up soup kitchens in Manila.
On the other hand, the cardinal opposed the supply of U.S. military aid, as he has in the past. He said he asked President Reagan in New York last September not to send more weapons to the Philippines.
Sin met yesterday with Vice President Bush and other U.S. officials.