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Letter Causes Concern in Philippines

May 20, 1987

MANILA, Philippines (AP) _ The defense secretary said today he was concerned about an open letter attributed to a military group that appears to back opposition charges of election fraud.

Defense Secretary Rafael Ileto referred to a letter expressing fears that in the May 11 congressional election ″the will of the Filipino people may have been betrayed.″

The letter, which has been circulating through military garrisons, was signed by the secretariat of the Philippine Military Academy class of 1972. It urged speedy investigation of the fraud claims.

Members of that class spearheaded the military-civilian uprising of February 1986 that toppled President Ferdinand E. Marcos and installed Corazon Aquino in power.

The revolt followed the fraud-marred Feb. 7, 1986 presidential election that both Marcos and Mrs. Aquino claimed they won.

″We didn’t get the original copy (of the letter), but it’s a little bit disturbing,″ Ileto said after the weekly Cabinet meeting. ″We’re looking into it.″

Ileto, a 1943 graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, said he did not believe the bulk of the 250,000-member armed forces shared the misgivings of the letter’s authors.

The opposition Grand Alliance for Democracy, led by Ileto’s predecesor, Juan Ponce Enrile, has charged massive fraud in the election, in which Mrs. Aquino’s candidates appear headed for a landslide.

She has called the election the cleanest and freest in Philippine history, and foreign observers have said they saw no evidence of major fraud.

An alliance of leftist parties also denounced the election as a fraud and warned today that its supporters may resort to armed struggle instead.

The Alliance for New Politics told reporters it documented 85 cases of alleged fraud and harassment, mostly by militiamen, during the two-month campaign. It also said 29 ANP supporters were killed and 50 others were missing.

″The Aquino government and the Aquino party resorted to considerable fraud and terrorism,″ said ANP Chairman Fidel Agcaoili.

Asked if supporters might resort to armed struggle, ANP spokesman Jose Virgilio Bautista replied, ″It’s possible. It’s highly likely that it is going to happen.″

Communist rebels have been waging guerrilla war against the government for 18 years.

Unofficial tabulations by the private National Movement for Free Elections, or NAMFREL, based on 71 percent of the precincts, showed Mrs. Aquino’s coalition still ahead for 23 of the 24 Senate seats and leading in 144 of 200 district races for the House of Representatives.