President Reagan last night hailed the peaceful transfer of power in the Philippines as a "triumph of democracy" and said that "despite a flawed election, the Filipino people were understood."
Reagan opened his nationally televised address on defense by describing this week's events in the Philippines as a "stirring demonstration of what men and women committed to democratic ideals can achieve." It was his first public comment on the Philippines since his controversial remark Feb. 10 that there was "fraud on both sides" in the recent election.
Last night, Reagan said the "remarkable people of those 7,000 islands joined together with faith in the same principles on which America was founded -- that men and women have the right to freely choose their own destiny."
Reagan praised the "remarkable restraint shown by both sides to prevent bloodshed during these last tense days." He added that "our hearts and hands are with President Corazon Aquino" and her new government.
Meanwhile, administration officials said they are studying a possible request for increased aid to the Philippines if military and economic reforms are forthcoming. Before the election, the U.S. raised the prospect of such an increase.
Also yesterday, presidential spokesman Larry Speakes said the administration has no plans to seize or freeze the U.S. financial holdings of former president Ferdinand Marcos. Speakes also said there have been talks with Marcos or members of his entourage "as to what his wishes are and the possibility of him staying in Hawaii," although no decision has been made.
Reagan sent messages to Aquino in Manila and Marcos in Hawaii, but the White House did not reveal the contents. Officials said the message to Aquino congratulated her and reaffirmed that the United States wants to continue close relations with the Philippines. In the message to Marcos, Reagan praised his "courageous" decision to leave without bloodshed, officials said.
On Capitol Hill, Rep. Stephen J. Solarz (D-N.Y.) said he is drafting legislation to help Aquino's government pursue Marcos' holdings in the United States. "We're talking about massive amounts of money here . . . amounts that dwarf the annual level of U.S. aid to the Philippines," said Solarz, a longtime Marcos critic and chairman of a congressional investigation of Marcos' U.S. assets. "These resources were swindled and stolen from the Filipino people."
Speakes said the party fleeing Manila with Marcos had increased from 30 people airlifted from the presidential palace in U.S. helicopters to 89 family members and associates. The original group was limited by helicopter seating, he said. He added that all were promised haven in the United States.