Presidential challenger Corazon Aquino pledged today to renegotiate the Philippines' record foreign debt and place greater emphasis on reducing poverty to stem a growing Communist insurgency as she moved to blunt criticism by President Ferdinand Marcos that she has Communist support.
"I am convinced that, apart from gross violations of human rights and the persistence of certain structural injustices, much of the appeal of the armed struggle is rooted in our present economic conditions, rather than in ideological conviction," she told about 1,000 Philippine and foreign business leaders.
Aquino also called on Marcos to prove his allegations that she has Communist support or be silent, and said that if she is elected, she will not name Communists to her Cabinet.
"I am sick and tired of hearing that I have pinks and reds among my advisers," she said. "So, Mr. Marcos, either you put up or you shut up."
Her speech was interrupted several times by standing ovations.
Aquino directed her speech to the predominantly male audience in response to Marcos's charges that she was too weak to lead the Philippines as president. Yesterday, Marcos said Aquino would be easily manipulated by leftist advisers.
At an election rally outside the capital, Marcos spoke for nearly two hours and repeated his charges that, despite opposition denials, Communist guerrillas were helping Aquino's campaign, Reuter reported.
"For the male chauvinists in the audience, I intend as well to be the commander in chief of the armed forces of the Philippines," said Aquino, 52, widow of assassinated opposition leader Benigno Aquino.
In outlining her economic program, Aquino said the "urgent concerns" of unemployment and poverty, the foreign debt, agricultural monopolies, investment, excessive government intervention in the private sector and budget policies would be addressed immediately.
She said nearly half of the country's export earnings were being spent on interest payments on the $26 billion foreign debt "for loans that have benefited only a favored few."
She said she would seek more equitable terms from creditors.
"As you all know, much less stringent conditions are imposed on countries with new and credible leaderships, as in the case of Argentina today," she said.
In another development, opposition unity was strengthened when Jovito Salonga withdrew his candidacy for vice president today.
His coalition of 11 small regional political parties and street protesters threw its support behind Aquino's running mate, Salvador Laurel. His candidacy would have cut into the votes for Laurel.
Salonga's withdrawal leaves Eva Kalaw, a member of the National Assembly, as the only other opposition candidate for the vice presidency in the Feb. 7 election.
In accusing Marcos of mismanagement, Aquino said the Philippines "has sunk from second to Japan in economic progress to being second to none in poverty and despair."
She also denied that she is vindictive and seeks to jail him if she came to power. "He is giving me ideas, I think," she said.
United Press International added the following:
In another development, the Commission on Elections, the constitutional body that will supervise the presidential poll, today scrapped a plan for a computerized, "super-quick count" of the vote, United Press International reported.
The move, endorsed by the presidential palace, raised the possibility of conflicting early returns.
The commission, known as Comelec, had proposed a $2.2 million system under which 300 computers would provide results within 36 hours of the election.
A U.S. delegation that visited Manila last month found that the Marcos government had not budgeted money or personnel for the system.
Meanwhile, a second U.S. delegation from the National Republican and National Democratic Institutes for International Affairs opened talks with Philippine government, civic and opposition leaders to determine whether they will recommend that the U.S. Congress dispatch observers to the election.