TODAY’S TOPIC: U.S. Filipinos Join To Oppose Marcos
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) _ Melinda Carrezosa works 40 hours a week in a San Francisco bakery, then sends her pay to her native Philippines to be used in the effort to oust President Ferdinand Marcos.
Rene Ruiz quit her job in Chicago and now spends her time trekking across the Midwest petitioning for honest elections in her homeland.
They and other Filipinos in the United States watch with a growing concern as the Philippines prepare to hold presidential elections Friday - some writing letters urging relatives to shake off fears and vote, others contributing to a fund to send ″watchdogs″ to polling places, many simply praying.
″The elections in the Philippines are our last chance for peace. It is our last chance to restore democracy,″ said Alex Esclamado, editor of the anti- Marcos weekly, The Philippine News, based in South San Francisco.
That feeling has helped unite many of the estimated 2 million Filipinos in this country into a campaign supporting Marcos’ opponent, Corazon ″Cory″ Aquino, the widow of opposition leader Benigno ″Ninoy″ Aquino, who was assassinated in 1983 in Manila.
The national Ninoy Aquino Movement in New York is appealing for worldwide help. The organization, founded shortly after his killing, is trying to raise $4.5 million to send people to watch the polls in the country’s 90,000 precincts. But by last week, the movement had raised just $75,000.
Mrs. Carrezosa sends her bakery earnings back to the Philippines, and she and her husband, Felipe, live on his $17,000 a year salary. They fled the Philippines in 1975 to escape what she called ″severe economic depression.″
″My husband and I decided that the best way to help our people was to come to the United States and send them money, so that they could organize and seek change,″ Mrs. Carrezosa said.
Ms. Ruiz quit her job as a bank teller to devote full time to anti-Marcos political activity around the Midwest. ″Before I worked 8 to 5. Now, the only time I’m not working is when I am sleeping,″ she said.
Congregations of Filipinos in Chicago gather every day to pray for an honest, violence-free election.
To most Filipinos, the election will be the catalyst for one of two things: peace or violence.
″The will of the Filipinos is getting very, very weak,″ said Vic Esclamado, brother of Alex and a Chicago professor who fled to the U.S. in 1974 to escape martial law. ″If the election process fails the people, and people believe Marcos cannot be ousted democratically, then they will take arms against the dictatorship.″
That, he says, could help communists rise to power.
The only hope for peace on the 7,100-island nation is for Mrs. Aquino to be elected, he said. ″But that would be a miracle.″
″Marcos controls the ball game. ... He’ll never surrender power,″ said Francis Calpotura, of the League of Filipino Students at the University of California-Berkeley.
″After the unconvinced are convinced that they cannot oust Marcos solely by the election process, the people will take arms against Marcos and the fight will heighten,″ Calpotura said.
Marcos supporters portray some opponents in the United States as people fighting not to improve the Philippines but to regain personal wealth and power.
″These people have had a falling-out with the president and now they’re trying to restore their position and gain vengeance,″ said Ferdinand Romero of San Jose.
Romero, who moved here in 1966, a year after Marcos was elected president, said, ″I was happy with the president when I moved to the United States and will remain loyal to him.″
Alex Esclamado said he helped Marcos campaign when he first ran for office. ″But by the beginning of his second term, I could see the signs of corruption and I became disenchanted,″ he said.
The editor of The Philippine News said two major issues of the presidential campaign - allegations that Marcos was not a World War II hero, as he claims, and that his family has questionable property holdings in the United States - appeared in his paper years ago. Marcos has denied both assertions.
Philippines Consul Romeo Arguelles in San Francisco argues that most Filipinos in the United States are not concerned about politics, but only about making a peaceful life for themselves.
Arguelles said there are not many anti-Marcos activists, ″just a few who make it seem that way.″
″On election day, ″ counters Fely Villasin, of the Coalition Against the Marcos Dictatorship/Philippine Solidarity Network, ″the strength of Marcos opponents will be seen.″