Three months after Philippine President Corazon Aquino came to power in a military-led civilian revolt, there is a growing debate in the Reagan administration about the direction the new Philippine government is taking, according to administration and other sources.
In particular, the concern is focusing on the appointment Sunday of a commission to draft the country's new constitution, the sources said.
The appointments are likely to include as many as three top communists, including Jose Maria Sison, a founder of the Communist Party of the Philippines, and Bernabe Buscayno, a commander of the party's armed wing, the New People's Army, one analyst said.
Sison and Buscayno, also known as "Commander Dante," were among four top communists released from jail soon after Aquino came into office as part of her campaign for national reconciliation.
Aquino abolished the Philippine legislature March 25 and unilaterally proclaimed a "provisional constitution" that gave her powers at least as great as those of deposed president Ferdinand Marcos, who is in exile in Hawaii.
Aquino has said that she would draw from a cross-section of the political spectrum in appointing a commission of up to 50 people to draft a new constitution. The constitution then would be submitted to a plebiscite, and government officials have said they hoped that elections under the new constitution would produce a legislature within a year.
At the same time, presidential spokesman Rene Saguisag, who is visiting the United States, suggested that there will not be any representation from Marcos' New Society Movement party, known by its Philippine initials as the KBL.
In a meeting with Filipino-American residents here earlier this week, Saguisag reiterated the need for different positions. "Commander Dante represents one point of view," he said.
It is unclear how much influence Dante and Sison, who were jailed in 1976 and 1977 respectively, still have with the communist leadership. But since Sison's release, he has been increasingly vocal. He has called for a coalition government with the communist party, said one analyst, who said Sison's presence on the committee would be "a one-man wrecking crew."
Concern over the makeup of the constitutional commission is part of an overall debate in the Reagan administration. There is still a sense of "drift and disarray" in Manila, one official said, about how Aquino is coping with the ravaged Philippine economy, the continuing communist insurgency in the countryside and political infighting within the coalition of businessmen, priests and soldiers who make up her cabinet.
In a related development, U.S. officials are considering moving Aquino's visit to the United States from November to September. The request for an earlier date was relayed by Information Minister Teodoro Locsin during a brief visit to the United States last week, U.S. officials said.
But Washington has told Manila that by the time of the Aquino visit, "she has to have something done, something concrete to show that she has programs and policies in place," one State Department official said.
In congressional testimony last week, Assistant Defense Secretary Richard L. Armitage said the rebels have achieved some substantial gains since Aquino came to power, killing more than 600 soldiers and civilians.
John C. Monjo, deputy assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs, cautioned that even if there is a ceasefire and an amnesty program, "the hard-core elements will fight on. To believe otherwise is to underestimate the discipline and indoctrination of the communists."
While some U.S. analysts also said that Aquino has not undertaken enough major initiatives to revive the economy, U.S. and Philippine government officials said they are looking to a meeting next week in Tokyo for a better sense of the new government's priorities when representatives meet with Manila's major aid donors.
U.S. officials are also seeing signs of continuing friction between the military and civilian factions of Aquino's cabinet. Defense Minister Juan Ponce Enrile and Armed Forces Chief of Staff Gen. Fidel Ramos this week ordered regional commanders to not approve of local truces entered into with communist rebels and Moslem insurgents.