Former Philippine president Ferdinand Marcos has sought to discredit the defense minister who helped topple him when he changed sides and backed Corazon Aquino in last month's power struggle, the minister said today.
Defense Minister Juan Ponce Enrile disclosed the text of a telex he said he received yesterday from Marcos in which the deposed leader appeared to suggest that the two men had struck a secret deal during the crisis.
The telex denied a statement attributed to Marcos' daughter, Imee Manotoc, saying that "she will spend the last penny of my fortune to have you liquidated.
"This is pure fabrication, because like the rest of us she has refused to talk about the situation," the text added. "We are keeping our agreement. I hope you get on top of things."
Enrile's press spokesman, Eddie Pangilan, said, "It is very clear that they," meaning Marcos and his camp, "want to destroy the minister by sowing intrigue and that they will stop at nothing in an effort to make him look as shady as they are." He quoted the minister as saying he never made a "political agreement with Marcos prior to, during or after the people's revolution."
Enrile's decision to publish the text of the purported telex, according to political observers, apparently reflected his realization that his long years of service to Marcos made his eleventh-hour conversion to the Aquino cause suspect in many quarters. Enrile served in Marcos' Cabinet since 1966 and became defense minister in 1970.
Potentially most damaging to Enrile was the phrase, "I hope you get on top of things," which might suggest that Enrile was trying to supplant President Aquino, political analysts said.
By making the text public, Enrile could preempt Marcos and scotch suggestions of a secret deal, the analysts said, since Marcos was almost certain to have circulated copies if the minister had remained silent.
In the text, Marcos pointedly said he had sent a telex "because I cannot get to you by phone." Marcos has placed numerous calls to members of his party, the New Society Movement, in efforts to keep them united and influence Philippine politics, party members and U.S. officials have said.
But despite Marcos' efforts, a number of his followers in the legislature have broken with him. A group led by a longtime Marcos aide, former labor minister Blas Ople, formed a new party and has indicated that it is prepared to cooperate with President Aquino while forming a political opposition.
Enrile issued a statement recalling that "all my conversations with Marcos by phone from Feb. 22 to Feb. 27, in particular, were done in the presence of many people and these conversations are of public knowledge," the spokesman quoted Enrile as saying.
Enrile said he talked to Marcos three times after he defected along with Gen. Fidel Ramos, the armed forces chief of staff, on Feb. 22.
Three days later, Marcos phoned to say he was willing to recognize Aquino's government, cancel the fraud-ridden Feb. 7 presidential elections and remain as honorary president with Enrile in charge of the government, the minister recalled. Enrile added that he had rejected all these suggestions.