January 30, 1986

A special election for President and Vice President will take place in the Philippines on February 7. This election is of great importance to the future of democracy in the Philippines, a major friend and ally of the United States in the Pacific. It comes at a time when the Philippines is struggling with the urgent need to reestablish a political consensus, restructure the economy, and rebuild a sense of military professionalism.

President Marcos has invited the United States to send observers to the election. Because of our respect for the Philippines and our commitment to the sovereign will of a democratic people as expressed through the electoral process, I have decided to send a delegation of official U.S. observers to the Philippines for the election. I would like the delegation to be composed of Members of the Congress from both parties and of distinguished Americans from the private sector. I also note that the party institutes of both the Republican and Democratic Parties have jointly decided to sponsor an international observer delegation for the election in the Philippines. I am confident that both of these efforts will make a significant contribution to this important event.

The United States left a legacy of democratic institutions in the Philippines earlier in this century. Filipinos believe in elections, as long as they are fair, to resolve their political differences. To safeguard the process, the National Citizens' Movement for Free Elections, or NAMFREL as it is called, will field hundreds of thousands of citizen election observers on February 7. Such citizen participation makes Americans proud to have the Republic of the Philippines as a friend and ally.

A free and fair election, if also followed by a genuine reform effort in the economic and security areas, will assist the Philippines along a path of growth, prosperity, and stability that will benefit the entire region. The Communist Party of the Philippines, through its military arm, the New People's Army, and its front organization, the National Democratic Front, is pursuing a classic military and political strategy intended to lead eventually to a totalitarian takeover of the Philippines. The Communist strategy can be defeated, but defeating it will require listening to and respecting the sovereign voice of the people.

I believe this is an important time for America to respond to the problems of a friend and ally at a critical juncture in its history. If the will of the Filipino people is expressed in an election that Filipinos accept as credible, and if whoever is elected undertakes fundamental economic, political, and military reforms, we should consider, in consultation with the Congress, a significantly larger program of economic and military assistance for the Philippines for the next 5 years. This would be over and above the current levels of assistance we are providing.

Note: Larry M. Speakes, Principal Deputy Press Secretary to the President, read the President's statement to reporters at 10:10 a.m. in the Briefing Room at the White House.