President Ferdinand Marcos told a U.S. investigating team that he would cancel the special presidential election scheduled for Feb. 7 if the Philippine Supreme Court declared it unconstitutional, according to congressional testimony yesterday.
Marcos' reported comments came before today's court decision in Manila ruling that the special election was within the bounds of Philippine law.
In a 48-page report on Philippine election preparations, a bipartisan team from Boston University's Center for Democracy reported yesterday that Marcos told them that if the court rules the election invalid, "There is no snap election."
"He further stated that exercise of his decree power to overrule a Supreme Court decision would be 'highly questionable,' " the six-member team said in its report to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
The Feb. 7 election had been challenged on the grounds that there is no provision in the Philippine constitution for Marcos to call an election before the one regularly scheduled for May 1987, and that he had not resigned from office pending the election results as required.
The Center for Democracy team, which visited the Philippines last week, said it was unable to determine whether free and fair elections would take place because the government has yet to establish election procedures. Because of this, "Our judgment on the ultimate fairness and credibility of the election must remain tentative at this point," team members said.
The team was led by Allen Weinstein and included E. Mark Braden, chief counsel for the Republican National Committee, and Elaine K. Shocas of the Democratic National Committee.
Sens. Richard G. Lugar (R-Ind.) and Claiborne Pell (D-R.I.), chairman and ranking minority member of the Foreign Relations Committee, asked the Center for Democracy to study election procedures and to advise whether Congress should send observers in February.
The center said such a decision should await resolution of "the grave concerns" expressed in its report regarding election procedures and subsequent reports by other observers.
Among the team's concerns were the inability of the government to print new ballots in time for the election; no funding yet for the purchase of new computer equipment to obtain a quick, honest vote count; and the failure of the government so far to accredit the National Citizens Movement for Free Elections as a monitoring body.
The report said accreditation of the Citizens Movement, as was done for the 1984 National Assembly elections, was "absolutely vital" for the holding of a credible election. It listed the movement's accreditation as one of eight criteria by which Congress could judge Marcos' intentions.
Also appearing before the committee yesterday was Assistant Secretary of Defense Richard L. Armitage, who reported several new developments in the fast-spreading communist insurgency threatening the Philippines.
The rebel New People's Army, he said, began this past month the "increased and rather extensive use of explosives for the first time, particularly land mines." It has also begun targeting attacks on helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft, he said.
That indicates the rebels are developing "a maturity and confidence" they previously lacked, said Armitage. He also noted that government control in the countryside continues to erode as the rebels grow "in a steady fashion."