The people of the Philippines are preparing to vote in a general election on Friday, April 7.
The people of the Philippines are preparing to vote in a general election on Friday, April 7. It will be the first parliamentary election held there since President Ferdinand Marcos declared martial law and assumed wide personal powers in September, 1972.
SYNOPSIS: President Marcos set the date for the elections during an address to the interim National Assembly in January this year. He described the Philippines' first election in nearly six years as an experiment in democracy. He has said he will resign if defeated, but, with all the apparatus of government and a controlled press in his hand, he can hardly lose.
And although the advent of the election may be taken as a sign of the relaxation of martial law, the situation of most Filipinos is not likely to alter. There are a million or more people living in lean-to shacks in and around Manila and their poverty-line existence has not changed for the better under martial law, despite the promises of President Marcos' 'revolution for the poor' .... and the President's astute public relations sense, which sees to it that handouts to the needy are accompanied by all the fun of the fair. And yet, for Filipinos, this is all part of the political game. As the election approaches the air is filled with the sounds of accusations and counter-accusations.
For one thing, the opposition claim that the government will rig the ballot and buy votes and that it is corrupt and power-hungry. Marcos replies by stepping up the campaign, with the powerful assistance of his wife, Mrs. Imelda Marcos, who is governor of Manila and is fighting one of the 21 seats in the capital. Together, the President and his wife form a powerful partnership which has ruled the Philippines unopposed for over five years.
The Marcos principal opponent is Benigno Aquino, seen here making an appeal against a death sentence for subversion. Aquino, a 45-year-old former Senator, will be in jail throughout in campaign. Furthermore, his party cannot afford to field more than 21 candidates. And yet Aquino is the only man with a hope of winning even a token representation in any future parliament. For outside Manila, the Marcos machine is virtually unopposed. Anti-Marcos demonstrations are dealt with by an effective police force and further opposition is muted - some 4,000 people are held in detention for their political views.
And, to the despair of those who hope to stir up an effective political counter to the present regime, the Filipinos are largely apathetic. Most of them are poor; some of them are very rich. Only very few appear concerned to bring about real change. Which is why the question is not whether President Marcos can win the election but whether the opposition can win any seats at all.