By a vote of 85 to 9, the Senate adopted a resolution yesterday declaring that the Philippine presidential elections "were marked by such widespread fraud that they cannot be considered a fair reflection of the will of the people of the Philippines."
In the most dramatic expression yet of bipartisan political consensus against the government of Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos, the nonbinding resolution said, "America's interests are best served in the Philippines by a government which has a popular mandate." It asked that President Reagan "personally convey this finding" to Marcos.
Secretary of State George P. Shultz, meanwhile, sought to brake accelerating congressional momentum for a curb on U.S. aid to the Philippines, warning that action on any of several pending bills should be delayed until special presidential envoy Philip C. Habib returns from a fact-finding mission there.
"We shouldn't be doing anything about our aid levels right at the moment," Shultz told the Senate Budget Committee. "We have on our hands a very delicate situation. We don't want to jump at it with some precipitate action here."
The Senate resolution stopped short of recommending concrete action in response to the vote-fraud finding, but key Senate and House committee chairmen endorsed a plan to withhold U.S. military aid from the Marcos government and channel humanitarian assistance through the Roman Catholic Church and other nongovernmental organizations.
Rep. Stephen J. Solarz (D-N.Y.), chief sponsor of the plan, said a vote on it could come today in the House Foreign Affairs subcommittee on Asian and Pacific affairs, which he chairs.
Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Richard G. Lugar (R-Ind.) and House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Dante B. Fascell (D-Fla.) have backed central elements of the plan, which would place military aid in escrow "until a legitimate government is established which has the confidence of the Philippine people," as Solarz described it.
In a separate appearance, Defense Secretary Caspar W. Weinberger told the Foreign Affairs Committee that "the only real beneficiary of a delayed or diminished military aid program would be the New People's Army, the communist insurgency, and that is an outcome which we cannot support."
At the same time, Weinberger promised to work closely with Congress and said, "We will certainly look at all proposed solutions."
The Senate vote, the high point in a day of intense discussion of the Philippine situation, appeared to mark a shift from debate over the legitimacy of the election to debate over what the U.S. response should be.
Democrats made plain they were toning down their demands in the interest of sending a united bipartisan message to Reagan, to Marcos and to the Philippine people. "If it had been Democrats only, [the language] would have been stronger," Senate Minority Leader Robert C. Byrd (D-W.Va.) said of the resolution.
House Speaker Thomas P. (Tip) O'Neill Jr. (D-Mass.) said he would support and push to the floor a House version of the resolution. "Should we in some way send a strong message to Mr. Marcos? The answer is yes," O'Neill said.
Lugar said after an hour-long meeting with Shultz later in the day that he was hopeful that a bipartisan group in Congress can reach agreement with the administration on "a coordinated consensus" on U.S. policy in the Philippines.
Sen. Jim Sasser (D-Tenn.) urged Shultz to "send the Marcos government a strong, clear, immediate signal" because "if we don't pull the plug on President Marcos, in due course the Philippine people are going to pull the plug on the United States and on our [military] bases" there.
Shultz responded, "You're right. We have a big stake there. We have a stake in freedom. We have a stake in democracy. Let's put that first, over and above the bases. The bases are important . . . to the Philippines and other countries out there in addition to ourselves." He added, "We want to stay connected to the Philippines. We don't want to walk away from them. And how to do that under present circumstances is a difficult task."
The Senate resolution was first proposed by Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) but was speedily embraced by Byrd and -- after some tinkering -- by Senate Majority Leader Robert J. Dole (R-Kan.) and Lugar, who co-chaired Reagan's official delegation of observers to the Philippine elections.
After the vote, Kennedy called upon Reagan to urge Marcos to step aside in favor of opposition candidate Corazon Aquino.
"Corazon Aquino won that election lock, stock and barrel," Kennedy said. "It's time for the Senate to say it . . . and it's time for the president to say it."
During the debate, several senators said the resolution was the least the Senate could do. Sen. Bill Bradley (D-N.J.) introduced legislation offering what he called "a menu of stronger action that could be taken."
The proposals included an end to economic aid to the government, a suspension of sugar imports from the Philippines, an end to preferential trade arrangements, a ban on U.S. votes for loans to the Philippines by multilateral lending agencies, and a toughening on U.S. loan requirements.
Dole, who introduced a measure to accelerate feasibility studies of moving two major U.S. military bases from the Philippines, said he wanted to avoid "interference in the internal affairs of the Philippines" and would not back any aid cut "at least until Mr. Habib gets back." The Senate needs "a little more evidence . . . some concrete evidence" of vote fraud before taking further action, he said.
The senators who voted against the resolution were Jeremiah Denton (R-Ala.), John P. East (R-N.C.), Barry Goldwater (R-Ariz.), Chic Hecht (R-Nev.), Jesse Helms (R-N.C.), John Melcher (D-Mont.), Steve Symms (R-Idaho), Strom Thurmond (R-S.C.), and Malcolm Wallop (R-Wyo.). Sen. Howell Heflin (D-Ala.) voted present.