What If Marcos Wins? Corazon Aquino, the candidate of anti- Marcos Filipinos, has declared that if elected president she will allow communists into her Cabinet. She has in mind, she told reporters in what was an obvious appeal for the communist vote, a coalition government. You are not to gather from this that she is herself a communist. "I would be the last person in the world to be a communist," she said. But Aquino, who is running as a law-and-order candidate in opposition to the excesses of President Marcos, which may or may not have included the assassination of her husband, wants Filipinos and the world to know that she has in mind a very special kind of communist, namely "communists (who) renounce all forms of violence." If Aquino can produce communists who fit that description, she should get a Nobel Prize for alchemy.

The big debate about the Filipino engagement has begun not only there but also here. Jeane Kirkpatrick has written in her column that American purism is causing difficulty in viewing the Filipino election realistically. We are asking of Marcos the kind of behavior we don't ask of other world leaders with whom we have normal relations, and this notwithstanding that Marcos heads a government friendly to the United States in a country so situated geopolitically as to be critical to American interests in the area. "Of 159 member states of the United Nations, at least 100 are probably governed more poorly than the Philippines," observes Kirkpatrick, who did plenty of observing of other nations while in the United Nations.

And, arguing the Dump Marcos position, we have Arthur Schlesinger Jr. in The Wall Street Journal. He very much dislikes the argument that we lost Iran by failing to back the shah, and lost Nicaragua by failing to back Somoza. And he acknowledges that President Reagan, in criticizing Marcos as he has done through various representatives we have sent there, most conspicuously Sen. Paul Laxalt, is in fact exercising exactly the role we criticized Carter for exercising when he criticized the shah and later Somoza. Moreover, says Schlesinger, there isn't any other course we could realistically take, because any failure to observe neutrality has the effect of polarizing internal divisions, and what then happens is that radical and anti- U.S. forces come in. So? "Send Marcos Packing," his column is titled.

Now here is something American critics have given insufficient attention to, which is that democratic procedures by no means guarantee pleasant, hygienic and law-abiding governments. What are we going to do -- by we, I mean the Schlesingers and the Stephen Solarzes and the Americans for Democratic Action -- if what happens in the Philippines is that Marcos is returned? Returned, moreover, in an election judged by observers to have been fairly conducted?

We should begin by reminding ourselves that in our time, people voting freely have made disastrous political mistakes. In Germany in 1932, if you add the votes for the communists to the votes for Hitler, you have very nearly a majority of German voters going for a totalitarian government. Now let us assume that if Hitler had run again in 1936, enough Germans would have come to their senses and voted him out: that would have satisfied us that sober democratic reflection erases occasional impetuosities.

But how do we cope with Peron in Argentina? Not only was he a despot and a plunderer who wasted the capital infrastructure of a prosperous country, he was beloved even in exile, and 20 years later was re-elected. And when he died in office, his cuckoo wife, the instrument of a soothsayer, was elected. It was, unhappily, impossible to say that Peron was other than the people's choice.

And we may discover, in the Philippines, that Marcos is the genuine choice of the majority of the Philippine people. We are entitled to go on to say that it is a pity choices were so limited, but then we can say as much about the choices available in many countries -- including, from time to time, the United States.

Aquino would admit communists into her government. She has said she would not renew the U.S. bases when the existing treaties expire, unless a plebiscite desires a renewal. Salvador Laurel, her vice presidential candidate, has said that he would not renew them under any circumstances. If you were a Filipino, feeling the hot breath of a communist insurgency, and given the choice of Marcos or Aquino, are you absolutely certain you would vote for Aquino?

I'm not. Schlesinger and his friends should do a few push-ups to put them in shape for that awful possibility: a free election, won by Marcos.