A reformist group of officers in the Philippine military pledged today to work against any cheating in the special presidential election next month.
Navy Capt. Felix Turingan, at a press conference, said these officers would campaign to heighten awareness among the ranks for the need to ensure that the election is clean and honest. He said, however, that the officers did not have the resources to address specific cases of terrorism or vote-buying and that the campaign was designed to be a "moral force," with prayer rallies and seminars to be held in various military camps throughout the Philippines.
"We are bound to disobey illegal orders" if the soldiers are asked to tamper with the ballots, said Turingan, who appeared with 14 other officers.
Members said the reform movement had the support of the influential Roman Catholic Church leader, Cardinal Jaime Sin, along with private business groups and civic organizations.
The movement, which claims a membership of about 1,000 and general support from about 70 percent of the officers in the 150,000-member military, began about a year ago when disgruntled and disillusioned mid-level officers sought to improve morale and encourage professionalism.
Meanwhile, President Ferdinand Marcos accused a former senator and the brother-in-law of Corazon Aquino today of being Communists. Both are advising Aquino.
Marcos singled out Lorenzo Tanada, 86, and Agapito Aquino. Marcos' accusations came after Corazon Aquino challenged him to name those he said were Communists among her advisers.
When contacted, Agapito Aquino said: "If I am a Communist, why doesn't he have me arrested? Marcos is a liar." The Communist Party is outlawed.
There was no immediate comment from Tanada. But according to some political observers, Tanada's move to take a leave of absence as president of the left-wing Bayan alliance to campaign for Aquino was seen as an effort to distance himself from the left. Agapito Aquino fell out with Bayan in May 1985 over what he described as increasing Communist control of the organization, these observers said.
Corazon Aquino has said she has no Communist ties and would not appoint a Communist to her Cabinet if elected, but would welcome Communists into the government provided they renounced violence.
Six of the officers at the press conference said they did not believe that Corazon Aquino had Communist support or said they had no knowledge that she had Communist backing.
The officers said they were non-partisan and would accept whoever wins the election. "We are loyal to the commander in chief whoever she or he will be," said Turingan.
Marcos has said the military would revolt if Aquino won the election because she was backed by Communists, a charge she has repeatedly denied.
Meanwhile, in Lucena City southeast of Manila, armed forces Chief of Staff Gen. Fabian Ver, a close confidant and cousin of Marcos, said the armed forces will not allow the institution to be used by any political party and will remain neutral in the election.