President Corazon Aquino moved into a palace guest house across from the freshly fumigated former residence of deposed president Ferdinand Marcos today as members of her Cabinet said there was virtual unanimity on formally declaring a "revolutionary government" to help sweep away remnants of Marcos 20-year rule.
Cabinet ministers in Aquino's 13-day-old administration said such a formal declaration would speed up and simplify the tasks of dissolving the National Assembly, writing a new constitution, and holding new local elections.
Luis Villafuerte, the head of a commission on government reorganization, said that declaring a revolutionary government would merely clarify a situation that already exists.
However, members of Marcos' ousted regime, led by his running mate in last month's presidential election, Arturo Tolentino, charged that the Aquino government was illegal and called for a recount of the ballots in the Feb. 7 poll. They said Aquino was installed by a "coup d'etat" and expressed fears that her administration would turn out "worse than a dictatorship."
Tolentino, 75, claimed he was the "vice president-elect" and said that as far as he was concerned, "Mr. Marcos is still legally the president of the Philippines."
Marcos' former political affairs minister, Leonardo Perez, said that "as a revolutionary government," the Aquino administration "is necessarily dictatorial."
The former Marcos officials acknowledged, however, that there has been no significant retribution against them by the new government. But they expressed fears that this might happen under a proclaimed "revolutionary government."
Justice Minister Neptali Gonzales argued that "this is not the legal or political monster with which revolutionary governments are associated in the rest of the world."
Commission head Villafuerte said that "we have no choice" but to make such a formal declaration, which he said is likely after a Cabinet meeting Wednesday.
Following the declaration, he said, the National Assembly "will be abolished" and a new constitution drafted. Then elections would be held for a new national legislature as well as for governors, mayors and other local officials. Villafuerte said he would advocate that the "revolutionary government" remain in effect for six months while the whole process is completed, and that the administration "then revert back to a constitutional government."
Vice President Salvador Laurel has spoken of having an appointed commission of 30 to 50 members draft a new constitution and then put it to a national referendum for ratification to save the time and expense involved in electing a constitutional convention.
Aquino already has called off local elections that had been set for May on grounds of expense and still-inflamed political passions. Her local governments minister, Aquilino Pimentel, has been charged with appointing new governors and mayors temporarily to replace the incumbents, whose terms of office expired March 3.
Leaders of Marcos' party have objected strenuously to the proposed constitutional commission, the appointments of local officials, the planned dissolution of the legislature and other proposals for dismantling Marcos' political legacy. But they seem poorly placed to do much about their complaints in view of popular support for the military-led revolt that swept Aquino into power.
As Tolentino and two other members of Marcos' ousted party debated with three of Aquino's new Cabinet ministers at a weekly breakfast news forum, Aquino was making the symbolically important move into the Malacanang presidential palace compound from a cramped office in the capital's Makati business district.
Shortly after arriving at the palace guest house, where she intends to hold office, Aquino received Australian Foreign Minister Bill Hayden. He expressed confidence in the new government and told reporters afterward that Australia would double its aid to the Philippines to $17.5 million a year.
Hayden also said the Australian treasury department was looking for any Marcos investments in Australia but so far had not identified any. He said, however, that Eduardo Cojuangco, one of the Marcos associates who Philippine investigators say benefited substantially from his friendship with Marcos, had invested heavily in Australia and that his holdings were being investigated.
Aquino's move and Hayden's visit came after more than a week of intensive cleaning of the Spanish-style palace following the hasty flight Feb. 25 of Marcos, his family, his military chief of staff and dozens of aides, bodyguards and household servants. After they left on their way to exile in Hawaii, supporters who were left behind and, later, mobs of Marcos opponents, ransacked and looted parts of the palace not already in disarray from the panicky departure.
Besides receipts for millions of dollars worth of purchases of jewelry, clothing, antiques and other items, palace cleaners found scrapbooks containing photographs of what were believed to be the Marcos' expensive homes and buildings in the United States and Europe, along with their lavishly appointed interiors.
In addition to a vast stock of medicines at the palace, a copy of a University of Texas Medical School publication called "A Handbook for Renal Transplant Outpatients" was found in Marcos' quarters.