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Aquino, Campaigning, Warns Military to Stay Neutral

May 8, 1987

DANAO, Philippines (AP) _ President Corazon Aquino, campaigning in the stronghold of a local right- wing powerbroker, warned the military today to stay neutral in next week’s congressional election.

Voters on Monday select 24 senators and 200 lower house members in the first election since Mrs. Aquino took office in February 1986 after the fall of President Ferdinand Marcos.

Election officials say voting in some opposition strongholds may be postponed because of delays in distributing ballots and supplies.

Deputy presidential spokesman Danny Goso said Mrs. Aquino delivered the warning during a meeting with regional military commanders in Cebu City.

″I expect the armed forces to protect our citizens, to stay neutral,″ Goso quoted the president as saying. ″I say this sincerely because you have to stay above all this. It is important to impress upon our people that this is a new armed forces.″

Previous Philippines elections have been marred by massive fraud, with regional strongmen buying votes and using their own guards as well as soldiers to intimidate their opposition.

Following the meeting, Mrs. Aquino flew by helicopter to this coastal city, which is 350 miles south of Manila, to address some 5,000 people in the political stronghold of octogenarian Ramon Durano.

Mrs. Aquino campaigned for broadcaster Nenita Cortez Daluz, who is challenging Durano’s son, also named Ramon, for the House of Representatives from Cebu’s 5th congressional district.

The Durano family has dominated Cebu island politics for decades. The outcome of this hotly contested race is seen as a test of whether Mrs. Aquino can fulfill her promise to bring a ″new dawn″ to Philippine politics.

The elder Durano supported Marcos in last year’s presidential election and Mrs. Aquino was booed here during a brief 1986 campaign stop. But today, crowds surged forward to greet her.

″We are asking for a clean and honest election,″ Mrs. Aquino said. ″The people know how to protect democracy because the whole world admires us. They say we Filipinos know how to fight for democracy, and we know how to live in a democracy.″

In Manila, Augusto Toleda, Election Commission spokesman, said distribution problems may force postponment of the balloting in parts of 23 of the 73 provinces. A final decision is expected Saturday.

Areas affected include parts of Mindanao and Negros islands as well as Marcos strongholds of northern Luzon, where right-wing opposition candidates had hoped for strong support.

Senate hopeful Vincente Puyat, chairman of the opposition center-right Grand Alliance for the Democracy, denounced the threatened postponment as ″part of a master plan to rig the election in favor of administration candidates″ that ″could result in bloodshed.″

The Duranos’ power here illustrates the way local bosses have dominated Philippine politics. Januario Flores, a Durano follower who was fired as local prosecutor after Marcos was ousted, estimates more than 70 percent of the city’s 60,000 people depend on the Duranos for their livelihood.

Durano holdings include a sugar mill, a cement plant, an ice plant, an insurance company, a barge firm, coal mines, bakeries, a bank and one of two hospitals. Durano also has two sons-in-law running for the House in two other districts of Cebu island.

″His leadership is not founded on love but on fear,″ said acting Mayor Jovenal Almendras, 72.

Flores said Mrs. Aquino enjoys considerable popularity even in Danao, but he predicted the younger Durano would win by a small margin.

Durano opponents said the family told followers to turn out for Mrs. Aquino’s speech, cheer the president, and then vote against her candidate on election day.

Before the rally, young men could be seen in the streets wearing yellow T- shirts reading, ″We Love Cory But We Need Durano.″

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