Administration officials closely watching the Philippine elections said yesterday they were "disgusted, dismayed, troubled" by reports of widespread violence and vote fraud there.
"This seems to be on a much larger scale than was anticipated," said one official. He added that the administration "takes very seriously" a statement from Sen. Richard G. Lugar (R-Ind.), head of the official U.S. delegation of observers, that he had witnessed "some degree of systematic harassment" of voters and that the abuses had "deeply disturbed" him. "My feeling is the count is being managed, manipulated," Lugar told reporters in Manila.
However, the administration official added that there would be no final judgment on the election's validity until observers make an official report and there is a verdict from responsible Filipinos, including the independent watchdog group Namfrel -- the National Citizens' Movement for Free Elections -- and the Roman Catholic Church. No verdict is expected until late today or Monday, he said.
Namfrel officials abandoned efforts to monitor the vote in many parts of the Philippines' 7,000 islands, charging that backers of President Ferdinand Marcos had intimidated pollwatchers. But Namfrel labored on an unofficial tally yesterday evening, "which means they still think it's worth doing," a State Department official said.
President Reagan has promised to consider increased aid to the Philippines if there is a valid election followed by economic and military reforms. Marcos said yesterday he had "thought seriously about" invalidating the election because of fraud and violence, a move which would leave him in power until his current term expires in 1987. Another State Department official said that would mean the election "had not been the election we anticipated" in Reagan's promise. That would presumably derail any rise in aid.
Defense Department officials denied reports in the Japanese newspaper Asahi Shimbun that a Marine exercise scheduled off Japan was canceled and the Marines placed on standby alert to evacuate Americans from the Philippines in case of violence. "Things are normal there," a spokesman said, although U.S. ships near the Philippines could move in if necessary.
Marcos said at a news conference yesterday that it would "certainly hurt" if the United States found the election fraudulent, but that U.S. aid -- now at about $260 million a year -- is not crucial to Philippine survival.