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Vice President Calls for Aquino Resignation, New Elections

August 13, 1988 GMT

MANILA, Philippines (AP) _ Vice President Salvador Laurel on Saturday accused President Corazon Aquino’s government of corruption and incompetence and urged her to resign and call new elections.

In a four-page letter to the president, Laurel said conditions in the Philippines had gone ″from bad to worse″ since Mrs. Aquino was swept to power in the 1986 civilian-military revolt that ousted President Ferdinand Marcos. He said Mrs. Aquino failed to curb corruption or stem the 19-year communist rebellion.

Laurel said that if Mrs. Aquino resigned, he would step down too. But he said that if she refused to quit, he would leave her coalition government while remaining vice president, an elected post.

Mrs. Aquino refused to comment on Laurel’s resignation call, but accused her vice president of withholding support for her during two major coup attempts.

Last September, Laurel, 59, quit as foreign secretary and refused to serve in the Cabinet, citing ″fundamental differences″ with Mrs. Aquino.

Since then, the vice president’s political base has eroded steadily. Twenty-one of the 22 members of his party in the House of Representatives are reportedly preparing to defect to pro-Aquino parties.

Laurel read his letter to reporters at a news conference:

″Madame President: The time has come to tell our people with humility and candor that the presidency itself is the problem - because the task requires a higher level of competence - in the face of the advancing communist insurgency, the breakdown of law and order, the resurgence of widespread corruption, the paralyzation of political will and the growing desperation of our people.

″We need a leadership that does not only preach boldly, but sternly and courageously enforces public order and public morality ... without regard to the toll levied upon one’s popularity,″ Laurel said. ″That leadership you have promised, but have failed to deliver to our people.″

The next presidential elections are slated for May 1992.

Laurel’s election call generated little support among political leaders.

Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile, the country’s chief opposition figure, said he would meet Laurel soon to forge a new alliance. But he stopped short of endorsing another election.

Sen. Ernesto Maceda, who has criticized some of Mrs. Aquino’s policies, said he opposed Laurel’s demand. ″While the president has her deficiencies ... her stepping down will not solve our problems and may even compound them,″ he said.

Sen. Edgardo Angara, a conservative member of the Aquino coalition, said the country needs unity, not new elections.

Laurel, a boyhood friend of Mrs. Aquino’s late husband Benigno Aquino Jr., accused the president of ignoring his advice and of breaking a promise to name him prime minister.

Mrs. Aquino appointed Laurel prime minister in 1986 but abolished the post soon afterward.

Mrs. Aquino told reporters Saturday that Laurel’s influence had declined since she took office, but she said Laurel himself was to blame.

″I would just like him to understand that when I need his support, it seems he is not prepared to give it,″ she said.

In a November 1986 coup attempt, Aquino said, Laurel was playing golf. She said that in an August 1987 coup attempt in which at least 53 people were killed, Laurel withheld a public statement of support until military rebels were defeated.

Laurel, scion of one of the country’s most influential families, announced his candidacy for president in the February 1986 election against Marcos. He withdrew and agreed to run for vice president after the Roman Catholic hierarchy and others told him only Mrs. Aquino could unite the factious opposition.

Mrs. Aquino ran under Laurel’s UNIDO banner. Marcos claimed victory in the balloting but fled into exile in Hawaii after the uprising.

Some of Mrs. Aquino’s supporters also say her government lacks direction and leadership.

Last month, the man who persuaded Mrs. Aquino to run for president, newspaper publisher Joacquin Roces, said the government had lost sight of its goals of justice and social reform.

Solicitor-General Francisco Chavez has charged rampant corruption within the Presidential Commission on Good Government, which Mrs. Aquino organized to recover the billions of dollars Marcos allegedly stole in office.

On Thursday, Mrs. Aquino fired her national food director after an investigation found irregularities in his department but cleared him of wrongdoing.

Communist rebels have expanded to most of the country’s 73 provinces, and urban guerrillas and right-wing death squads carry out street assassinations in Manila and other major cities.