Statement on the Presidential Election in the Philippines

February 11, 1986

The Philippine elections have captured the attention of the American public. At times we need to remind ourselves that this is a Philippine election, not an American election. Yet our interests are deeply affected by these elections -- by the results, by the deficiencies of the process, and by what all this means for the future.

President Marcos invited American observers to witness the election; Senator Lugar and Representative Murtha cochaired an observer delegation at my request. They returned last night. I have heard their preliminary report this morning. Since no definite judgment on the result has yet been rendered by either the official or the unofficial Filipino electoral bodies, it is not appropriate for the United States to make such a judgment at this time. Nonetheless, two points need to be made:

-- First, it is a disturbing fact that the election has been flawed by reports of fraud, which we take seriously, and by violence. This concerns us because we cherish commitment to free and fair elections and because we believe the Government of the Philippines needs an authentic popular mandate in order effectively to counter a growing Communist insurgency and restore health to its troubled economy.

-- And second, the election itself -- the obvious enthusiasm of Filipinos for the democratic process and the extraordinary vigor of the campaign also tell us something. They tell us of the profound yearning of the Filipino people for democracy and, indeed, of the vigor of the underlying forces of pluralism and democracy. Only the Communists boycotted the election.

The political process in the Philippines continues; further, it does not end with this election. Our task for the future is to help nurture the hopes and possibilities of democracy, to help the people of the Philippines overcome the grave problems their country faces, and to continue to work for essential reforms. To help advise me on how the United States can best pursue that task and to assess the desires and needs of the Filipino people, I am asking Ambassador Philip Habib to travel to the Philippines to meet with the leaders of both political parties, with church and government officials, and with representatives of private sector groups.

Americans can never be indifferent to events in the Philippines. Our two countries have too much at stake for that. Our national interests converge. Our peoples bear genuine affection toward each other. Most important, our peoples share democratic aspirations. Those ties between our peoples will endure.