Protests Staged to Keep Local Officials With AM-Philippines
MANILA, Philippines (AP) _ Groups of Filipinos picketed at least three city halls Monday to protest the new government’s removal of mayors and other local officials loyal to deposed President Ferdinand E. Marcos, the Philippine News Agency said Tuesday.
It said the largest demonstration involved about 2,000 people at the city hall in Quezon City, a Manila suburb. Some 700 carried signs outside the city hall in Baguio City, northern Luzon, and another 200 staged a protest at General Santos City, on the southern island of Mindanao.
All of the demonstrations were described as peaceful.
The staged protests stemmed from a decision by Aquilino Pimentel, President Corazon Aquino’s new minister for local governments, to cancel scheduled May local elections and replace the Marcos loyalists with Aquino supporters by appointment.
Members of Marcos’ party, the New Society Movement, or KBL, drafted a resolution during a closed-door caucus on Monday, asking Mrs. Aquino to retain the local officials until their terms of office expire in June.
Mrs. Aquino said Monday in an interview with The Associated Press that it was necessary to replace some mayors because they had used ″terrorism″ during the Feb. 7 election in which she says she defeated Marcos.
There were reports of harassment of voters, stealing of ballot boxes and killings of those who tried to protect them during the presidential election Marcos had called early to prove he had the support of the people. The National Assembly declared him the winner, but massive public demonstrations and defections by his Cabinet members and armed forces leaders led to Marcos giving up his office.
″In those areas where killings had indeed occurred and where the mayor or governor and his men were still terrorizing people, then it was urgently needed to make some changes,″ she said.
Pimentel said in another interview that fewer than 10 mayors had been replaced so far. He said changes would be made on the basis of ″competence, integrity, dedication to public service and the negative qualification that they must have no taint of oppression during the martial law years against our people.″
Pimentel acknowledged that an election would be preferable ″because that would remove all these problems from my head,″ but said there were ″practical considerations″ against holding elections right away.
One of these, he said, was ″the general excitement of bitter partisan feelings that we will have to live through again so soon after the last one.″
He also said spending more money on elections now would disrupt the government’s economic recovery plans, and the Marcos-appointed Commission on Elections should be dismantled.
Blas Ople, a KBL party leader who was Marcos’ labor minister, called the arbitrary removals ″revolutionary terror″ and said they would cause civil unrest. He said demonstrations had been held in five places, which he did not name.
The Philippine News Agency quoted an unnamed demonstrator outside the Quezon city hall as saying it was ″fair and just″ that Mayor Adelina Rodriguez and Vice Mayor Stephen Sarino should stay because they had served their constituents well.
The agency said the demonstrators in General Santos City set up a human barricade outside the city hall and carried signs demanding a special election, hours after Dominador Lazare, a pro-Aquino human rights lawyer, informed local officials that he had been appointed to replace Mayor Antonio Acharon. The deposed mayor was attending the KBL party caucus in Manila, the news agency said.