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Laurel Files for Presidency after Opposition Splits

December 9, 1985

MANILA, Philippines (AP) _ Salvador H. Laurel registered as a candidate for the presidency Monday, rejecting an offer by Corazon Aquino that he join her in a ″grand coalition″ against President Ferdinand E. Marcos.

Laurel became the first major candidate to file for the Feb. 7, 1986, election which Mrs. Aquino’s supporters had hoped would pit her alone against Marcos - the man she says had her husband Benigno Aquino assassinated in 1983.

At election commission headquarters with his wife Celia and six of their eight children, Laurel, a former senator, signed documents to formalize his candidacy.

Marcos supporters said the opposition split would help the 68-year-old president, who has ruled the Philippines for 20 years.

″It will make it easier for us,″ said Labor Minister Blas Ople.

Hundreds of New Society Movement delegates began signing up Monday for an elaborate party convention which is set to nominate Marcos Wednesday under the slogans ″Tested in Crisis″ and ″President Marcos, Now More Than Ever.″

Laurel said there was no chance he would run as Mrs. Aquino’s vice presidential candidate after she refused to run under his party banner, but he said he might withdraw before the election if she proves the stronger candidate. He said he would expect her to do the same.

Mrs. Aquino, whose husband was Marcos’ major political rival, was drafted by the People’s Fight Party, a coalition of leftist and middle-of-the-ro ad politicians. She offered Laurel the vice presidential spot in a ″grand coalition″ to include opposition groups supporting her as well as Laurel’s United Nationalist Democratic Organization (UNIDO).

In describing the impasse between Mrs. Aquino and himself, Laurel said he once suggested they pray about who should run for president and then draw lots.

Meanwhile, a presidential palace news release said that Arturo Tolentino, fired as foreign minister by Marcos earlier this year for openly disagreeing with him, was a ″top-ranking″ possibility among seven candidates to be Marcos’ running mate.

The release did not name the six others. There has not been a vice president or an official successor to the president in 16 years.

Marcos’s six-year term runs until 1987. He called a special election in an effort to prove his popularity. U.S. officials and others accused him of failure to push domestic reforms and expressed concern over a continuing communist insurgency.

Palace sources, insisting on anonymity, said that a groundswell of support for first lady Imelda Marcos as her husband’s running mate would erupt at the party convention, but that she was expected to reject it.

Laurel, in a breakfast forum, predicted that Marcos would get only 20 percent of the vote. Marcos told NHK Japanese television in an interview that it would be the other way around.

Marcos and Elections Commission Chairman Victorino Savellano both said Monday that the election would be clean and honest.

The election has been challenged in the Supreme Court, and Marcos’ foes have said Marcos could influence the court to stop it if he thinks he is losing.

The palace said Monday that armed forces chief Gen. Fabian C. Ver may be retired before the election, but it added that he had asked to ″finish his mission before he goes.″ Ver, acquitted last week in the Aquino assassination, heads a military reorganization effort.

U.S. officials have said Ver’s continuation in power would hinder military reform.

In other Philippines developments:

-15,000 demonstrators marched peacefully in two southern towns. In Legaspi, 7,000 people protested purported government human rights abuses. In Bacolod, 8,000 attacked the election as a ploy to keep alive the ″U.S.-Marcos dictatorship.″

-A Mindanao Island mayor, Miguel Paderanga, said communist rebels kidnapped 14 government workers Saturday near his town of Gingoog to pressure the military to stop an offensive against them. He did not spell out their demands.

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