President Corazon Aquino named a commission to draft a new constitution for the Philippines today that excludes known Communist leaders but allows supporters of former president Ferdinand Marcos to fill five of the body's 50 seats.
The membership includes a number of politicians, lawyers, academics, four Roman Catholic clergymen, two Moslem leaders, two former Supreme Court justices, a retired general, a student leader and one of Aquino's uncles.
While Aquino did not appoint two Communist leaders who were widely expected to be named, she did include at least two members of a leftist political organization that the military sees as a front of the Communist Party of the Philippines.
The new charter to be drafted will replace a provisional one that Aquino proclaimed to dismantle the "Marcos dictatorship." Considerable debate is expected on such issues as the retention of U.S. military bases in the Philippines.
The commission is due to convene June 2. Aquino has said she hopes it can produce a new constitution within 90 days, paving the way for elections by the end of the year or early next year. Shortly after taking office, Aquino postponed elections set for May for provincial governors, mayors and other local officials. Elections must also be held for a new legislature following Aquino's March 25 abolition of the National Assembly elected under Marcos.
Aquino announced the composition of the commission at the end of a rally marking her three months in power since the fall of Marcos in a military-led popular revolt. The rally, held at a military camp on the eastern outskirts of Manila, was attended by about 70,000 people who braved periodic downpours as they sought to recapture the spirit of the largely peaceful three-day revolt.
Overtones of the anti-Marcos sentiment that marked the February revolt were apparent today when Aquino announced a place in the commission for a representative of the Church of Christ, an indigenous Philippine sect of about 4 million members that strongly supported Marcos. The announcement drew such protracted boos and hooting that Aquino bowed to the will of the crowd. "We will discuss this again," she said.
In a separate rally in a park by Manila Bay, meanwhile, about 5,000 Marcos loyalists proclaimed Arturo Tolentino, who ran for vice president under Marcos in the Feb. 7 election, as the "acting president." Loyalist leader Oliver Lozano told the crowd Marcos had telephoned him Friday from his exile home in Hawaii and issued instructions to proclaim Tolentino.
Tolentino, 75, condemned Aquino's government as illegal and unconstitutional but declined to take an oath of office as acting president. He had also refused an oath-taking Feb. 25, when Marcos had himself sworn in as president following a fraud-ridden "victory" in the Feb. 7 election. Nine hours after the ceremony, Marcos, his family and entourage fled the Malacanang presidential palace and flew to Hawaii the following day.
Tolentino has rejected participation in the constitutional commission, which has been widely criticized because it is an appointed rather than an elected body. Some of Marcos' opponents who supported the election of Aquino also have spurned the commission for that reason.
One former supporter of Marcos who has signaled willingness to participate in the commission is Blas Ople, who has formed a new political party from the remnants of Marcos' New Society Movement. Ople, Marcos' long-serving labor minister, has proposed 11 candidates for the commission, including eight from his party, two independents and one from New Society.
In announcing the names of 44 members of the commission today, Aquino passed over Jose Maria Sison, the founder of Communist Party of the Philippines, and Bernabe Buscayno, the original commander of the party's guerrilla wing, the New People's Army. They were among political prisoners released soon after Aquino took office, and both had been widely touted as likely members of the commission.
That prospect drew critical statements from officials in Washington, one of whom expressed concern that Sison would be a "one-man wrecking crew" on the commission.
Among those named, however, were Jaime Tadeo, the leader of a peasant organization that belongs to the leftist organization Bayan, and film director Lino Brocka, a left-wing Bayan activist who was briefly jailed by Marcos last year on charges of inciting rebellion.
Aquino said she was "leaving five places vacant in the spirit of reconciliation for the opposition to fill." A presidential aide later clarified that "opposition" meant Marcos' supporters rather than Communists.
Most of those named appeared to be political moderates who strongly supported Aquino's presidential campaign. They include six former members of a 1971 constitutional convention that was coopted by Marcos after he declared martial law in 1972. Six are women.
Among the best-known members are four legislators of the pre-1972 Congress -- Francisco Rodrigo, Ambrosio Padilla, Lorenzo Sumulong and Jose B. Laurel Jr. -- and two former Supreme Court justices, Roberto Concepcion and Cecilia Munoz Palma. Aquino noted that Sumulong is an uncle, but said, "I didn't nominate him. Others did."