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Marcos Says He’s Willing to Hold Elections Soon

November 4, 1985 GMT

MANILA, Philippines (AP) _ President Ferdinand E. Marcos, facing mounting U.S. criticism and a growing insurgency at home, said Sunday he is willing to hold elections within three months to settle questions of his popularity.

″Well I understand the opposition has been asking for an election. In answer to their request, I announce that I am ready to call a snap election perhaps earlier than eight months, perhaps three months or less,″ Marcos said on ABC-TV’s ″This Week With David Brinkley.″

ABC producer Bill Thomas said Marcos told him after the interview here that the election could be held Jan. 17, the anniversary of the 1981 lifting of eight years of martial law. But Marcos said an exact date for the proposed election was not expected before next week, Thomas added.

Marcos said he would like the election to be for president only, adding that the vice presidency could be decided in May, when local elections are scheduled, or later, according to Thomas.

″All this childish claims to popularity on both sides have to be settled,″ said Marcos, 68 and in power 20 years.

Marcos first hinted in August that he might call an early election after opposition lawmakers in the National Assembly announced they would seek his impeachment for corruption.

When the governing party crushed the impeachment measure, Marcos dropped the idea of early balloting, saying a government-sponsored survey showed a majority of Filipinos wanted him to finish his term until 1987.

″I think we have to settle it by calling an election right now,″ Marcos said during the interview shown live here on government television in a broadcast that began at midnight Sunday. ″Say give everybody 60 days or so to campaign and bring the issues to the people. I’m ready, I’m ready.″

In Washington, White House spokesman Bill Hart said he would have no comment on Marcos’ statements because the question of elections in the Philippines ″is an internal matter.″

Opposition leaders welcomed the announcement, and said former Sen. Salvador Laurel or Corazon Aquino, the widow of assassinated former Sen. Benigno Aquino, could oppose Marcos.

″A snap election ... is about the best thing that can happen to this country,″ Assemblyman Homobono Adaza said, and could remove Marcos from power. Television viewers, alerted by news flashes late Sunday that Marcos would make an important announcement, were caught by surprise because Marcos in previous interviews had indicated he would stick to the scheduled election in 1987, when his six-year term expired.

Marcos said he was confident he could convince the legislature to call for the early election because his supporters control two-thirds of the membership.

″Anyone″ would be able to participate in such an election, he said.

Marcos said he was willing to call an election sooner because the stability and effectiveness of his government was being questioned.

″You raise the question of the ineptness ... the effectivity of armed forces ... perhaps the other institutions of the government,″ he said. ″I think this should be brought to our people″ to determine ″what the people say about this question of support.″

Marcos’ move came at a time when the moderate political opposition is divided by feuds, with several leaders projecting themselves as possible candidates.

Adaza, vice president of the coalition United Nationalist Democratic Organization (UNIDO), said he was sure there will be only one opposition candidate. ″In the interest of common survival we will have to put up one candidate or face debacle, and we’re all pragmatic in the opposition.″

Mrs. Aquino has repeatedly said she is not interested in running for president but has not closed the door to accepting a draft. Her husband, who was assassinated on his return from voluntary U.S. exile in August 1983, was considered to be Marcos’ chief rival.

Marcos, dismissing allegations that he was responsible for massive voter fraud in previous elections, said members of the U.S. Congress would be invited to observe the election to evaluate whether it was conducted fairly.

The Reagan administration is becoming increasingly concerned about the growing communist revolt in the Philippines. During a recent visit to Manila, Sen. Paul Laxalt, R-Nev., told Marcos that Reagan was concerned about the Philippines, where the United States has two major military bases.

Adaza said the communist insurgency and ″American pressure″ were the main reasons for Marcos’ decision. ″If he does not hold a snap election, I don’t think we will be able to hold it in 1987 because of the deteriorating peace and order condition and the economic crisis,″ Adaza said.

In another development, Marcos ordered the release of a man jailed for three years without charges.

A presidential palace news release Sunday said Marcos ordered the release of Pepito Quiambao after Defense Minister Juan Ponce Enrile reviewed the man’s case and determined he has not been accused of any crime. Marcos ordered Quiambao freed ″for humanitarian reasons,″ the palace said.

It said Quiambao surrendered to police in 1982 after newspapers reported he was suspected of being a member of a terrorist group blamed by the police for a bomb explosion at the Manila Hilton Hotel that year. No one was killed in the blast.