Five U.S. election specialists who returned from the Philippines last weekend have said privately that President Ferdinand Marcos may cancel elections scheduled for February if he does not believe that he can win, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee said yesterday.
Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) said the bipartisan team has affirmed his public assertions that "Marcos is not going to run in any election he is not going to win."
The specialists, including legal counselors to the Democratic and Republican national campaign committees, are to appear this morning before the Foreign Relations Committee to present an assessment of whether the Philippine elections will be fair and open.
The team was headed by Allen Weinstein, a Boston University history professor who heads the Center for Democracy in Washington.
Weinstein said yesterday that he would not comment on the team's findings before presentation to the Senate.
He said his team spent all of last week in the Philippines conducting more than 70 interviews, including an hour-long session with Marcos; three hours with Marcos' wife, Imelda, and three hours with opposition candidate Corazon Aquino, widow of slain opposition leader Benigno Aquino Jr.
Meanwhile, a Foreign Relations Committee staff member said Kerry's comments may have gone beyond what the U.S. team will report to the Senate because, the aide said, the team was instructed not to make predictions about what Marcos may or may not do about the Feb. 7 election.
Committee Chairman Richard G. Lugar (R-Ind.) called the hearing to determine whether the Senate should send official observers to the election.
In other action, the House Foreign Affairs Committee voted, 21 to 2, to issue contempt-of-Congress citations against two New York real estate agents for refusing to testify about whether they have handled U.S. investments for Marcos and his wife.
Brothers Joseph and Ralph Bernstein, the agents, were not present for the vote and have cited an attorney-client privilege in refusing to provide Congress with information about their investment activity. Ralph Bernstein heads a real estate firm, and Joseph Bernstein is a lawyer whose practice includes assisting foreigners seeking U.S. investments.
The Bernsteins are represented by Stuart E. Eizenstat, a former senior aide to President Jimmy Carter. After the vote, Eizenstat told the Associated Press, "We regret the action because we see it as a fundamental threat to civil liberties and the attorney-client privilege."
Filipino critics of Marcos have alleged that he has funneled money out of the country and into U.S. investments. Marcos has denied these allegations, but they have prompted the current congressional inquiry.
The full committee vote ratified last week's vote by the subcommittee on Asian and Pacific affairs, which initiated the citations on a 6-to-3 vote.
The contempt citations must now go to the full House, which could not consider them before Congress returns in January.