thumbnail of In Our Image: The United States and the Philippines; Interview With Ambassador Stephen Bosworth
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be on the show. So if you could just... Okay. Well, I had never met either of the Marcos' before I arrived in Manila. In fact, I had never been in Manila before, so it was all kind of new and a little bizarre to me. When I first met the president, he was gracious and warm and obviously a man in very tight control of himself. He didn't seem to have a lot of slack in his personality. He didn't look well, and we had had course reports for some time that he had been ill. Amelda, of course, is a completely different sort of personality. I mean, it's all right out there. And she is kind of the ultimate entertainer. And when she meets someone, particularly when she meets a new American ambassador or when she did in those days, she was trying to be as winning as possible. So you had a feeling of taught self-control with the president and sort of in stark contrast to that,
this kind of exuberant, extravagance on the part of Amelda. I remember when I first talked to Amelda, I went down to make a courtesy call on her in her office in the Malican Young. And that was just a couple of weeks before I was getting married. And it was well known over around Manila that I was then the bachelor ambassador, but that I was going to come back and get married. And when I mentioned that to Amelda, her first reaction was fantastic. We have to give you a big party, which wasn't exactly what I had in mind. But anyway, those were my initial impressions of them. Now, this is April of 84. So it's about eight months or so, nine months after Nina was assassinated. And this beginning of the protests and so forth. I mean, you get flung into the situation, which is really in great movement. I'm not
suggesting that you knew what was going to happen. But you know, did you get any sense that the Marcos were feeling beleaguered? Oh, yes. I think they fell under considerable pressure. I arrived just before the National Assembly election in May of 84. And as you recall, the opposition did pretty well on that election. Much better, in fact, than anyone had expected. I think they would have done better still if someone would have counted the votes accurately. But it was nonetheless a kind of stunning political defeat for the Marcoses. And you know, I had reports of a lot of tears being shed in the Malik and Young on Election Eve, et cetera, et cetera. And it seemed to me as though any time there was an opportunity to sort of say, okay, we're starting over. We're going to start afresh. They were trying to put pick up the last several months and kind of put it in the closet someplace and try to move on to make things the way they used to be before Ninoi was killed. You know, and it was all still sort of
very land out there at least for the Marcoses. They believed then that everyone loved them, that they were popular and respected. And they found that very difficult to maintain as an attitude in the face of these enormous public protests. Now, when you got there and push you do your homework before you get there, and by this time, we've got 12 years of of Marcos, almost 11 and a half years of the martial, not exactly martial law, but it'd be equivalent to the authoritarian regime with this massive corruption and so forth. Did you any sense of that at the time? I mean, how much do we really know about what they were doing and insulting all of money and monopolies and so forth? Did you know about any of this? Well, I knew it was quite clear to us even before I arrived. I mean, this was not something I just developed as sudden intelligence, but it was clear that they had organized that economic system in
such a way as to basically be able to impose a levy on the Philippine economy. You know, every major productive sector, coconuts, sugar, the importation of wheat, the milling of flour, the importation of fertilizers, all public contracts. I mean, we knew that there was a percentage in all of that, with no accountability as to what happened to the money that came as a result of that percentage. I don't think anyone would have guessed at that point that the total would have been as high as people are now speculating that it might be. But I think the, you know, one key thing to remember is that until a keynote assassination, a lot of Filipinos knew that money was going out of that country. And for the most part, they weren't terribly concerned about it. It was only when the economy itself began to really nose-dive. And then when the Akino assassination took place and the Filipino people began to get some sense
of their own potential, that the issue of corruption became as burning an issue as it later was. But now from your position as the American ambassador, obviously the corruption is having effect on the economy. It's having a sustainability to repay their fine debt. It's having an effect on the stability. And therefore, it's having, it's of direct interest to us because of the stability, the growth of the communist movement, bases and jeopardy. What kind of leverage do we have in situational? Well, we were, we did two things. First of all, even before I'd arrived, we had established a control system for our own aid as it flowed into the Philippines, which basically meant we were tracking every dollar as it flowed through the Philippine bureaucracy in order to establish that each dollar was going for the purpose that it was intended and that it wasn't being drained off. And I, you know, I can say with a fairly high degree of of credibility, I think that the American aid was not being diverted. But the
other thing that we began doing was we tried to use the leverage of our own aid program, which was frankly not very great because while we called it aid, the Filipinos called it rent for the bases. And I would talk to the various ministers there about the need for them to do certain things in order for us to disperse to this aid. And the next thing I knew there would be an editorial in one of the papers saying, you know, what is this American trying to do telling us how to spend the rent that they are supposed to pay us for the bases that we let them have here. But we did have a public law 480 program that we initiated while I was there. And then we were working very closely with the World Bank and with the International Monetary Fund to try to maximize the stimulus, if you will, for the Philippine government to begin tightening some of these, these leakages. And one thing I, we did do when I was there was use that PL480 program to break up the government's monopoly on the importation of wheat.
And then the milling of flour and we managed to negotiate with the help actually of some of the Philippine ministers, including Cesar Verrata, who is Prime Minister. With his help, we managed to negotiate with the palace to end that monopoly. And I think it probably cost, cost the Filipinos several tens of millions of dollars a year to have all that monopolistic activity going on in the wheat industry. Let's talk a little bit if you could about Marcos and his attitudes towards the United States, his attitudes towards America. And how much, I mean on the one hand, wanting to be blessed, if you want, or having good relations with America on the other hand, trying to assert himself and how you dealt with the situation. Well, Marcos is a very complicated man. And I'm not sure that any thought is very simplified when it gets into his head. And his attitude toward the United States was
extremely complicated. And I suspect is even more complicated now as he sits out in Hawaii. On the one hand, I think he had a genuine respect for the United States, particularly for the power of the United States. And this is, I suppose, an inevitable part of the kind of post-colonial mentality out there. He, along with most other Filipinos, attributed to the United States, a capability and a calculation, which I, sitting where I was sitting, knew very well we didn't have. And there were many Filipinos who were convinced that some place in Washington or in the embassy, we had this large book in which we had spelled out in a great detail in advance what we were going to do in the Philippines. And that, you know, when the right day came, we just turned the page. We didn't have such a book, of course. But Marcos was convinced that we had the ability to do things there that I knew we didn't have the ability to do. On the other hand, politically,
it was very important for him to have that sort of stamp of, of legitimacy from the United States. And it was when he began to fear that we were preparing to withdraw that stamp of legitimacy that I think he began to behave in what turned out to be a not very calculated fashion. On the other hand, he didn't like the United States. I mean, he may have had this respect and he may have had this need for the United States. But, you know, he was not a great, he was not in love with the United States. And he found that we were very preachy. We were in his view telling him how to run his country. I kept talking to him about the need to revitalize democratic institutions in the country. And he would, you know, pay lip service to that. But I could see that his eyes would kind of glaze over as he heard this once more from the American ambassador. On a personal level, always, you
know, sort of warm and correct and gracious, always inquiring about your family and how you were, etc., etc. But always this sort of taught control and this reserve. You never really got close to them in. Did you feel that he, since he was very skilled, you know, he knew what was going on in Washington? He thought he did. I was never convinced that Marcos understood the United States or the way in which political decisions are made in the United States nearly as well as he thought he did. And in the end, I think that's one of the things that caused him such great trouble. Well, what I was getting at, did you sometimes feel that he was doing and runs around you, that he had some kind of lobby or somebody, you know, sympathizers back in Washington, that he could play to either in the White House or in Congress. Well, I think he thought he did. He thought he had, well, Marcos thought he had this sort of support
in Washington. He thought he had that sort of support from the conservative wing of the Republican Party. And in particular, of course, he placed a lot of faith in what he viewed as this strong personal relationship with President Reagan, which was dated back into the 70s when the Marcos had entertained the Reagans in Manila. I was never all that persuaded that the relationship was seen in quite as vivid hues in Washington as it was in Manila because I used to hear a lot from particularly from Amelda about Nancy and Ron this and Nancy and Ron that. And I think that Marcos for a long time believed that while I was telling him certain things on direction of the State Department and even the White House, that in extremists, he would go to his friend, Ronald Reagan and Ronald Reagan, would be there for him.
But it is a fact that, you know, Reagan during the 19, 84 campaign, you know, Stead and Marcos, is the only guy stands between chaos. Kind of, that Nancy or Melda did call Nancy, that Melda would see them or something to see somebody or she'd see them on his games in the States. I mean, it wasn't that a reality? Well, I think it was a reality and I think it was, it's true that, well, no question that there was a personal connection between the Marcoses and the Reagans. There's no question that there was a personal connection between the Marcoses and the Reagans. And I think for President Reagan, this was reinforced by a very deeply held belief, which is particularly in the aftermath of Iran that the United States should not lightly abandon long time friends and allies. And in the case of Marcos, it went beyond that because
there was a sort of personal relationship there. In the end, however, that was certainly not enough to do for Marcos what Marcos wanted done because I think what Marcos never really understood was the degree to which his image in the United States, in the Congress, in the press, and in the public indeed, an image which had never been exactly pristine except perhaps the first year after he was elected back in the 60s. But that image had really been corroded. And the the Akino assassination was kind of the final blow as far as Marcos' image in the United States was concerned. So that he never, I mean, it was interesting to me sitting out there in Manila fearful at times that our policy toward the Philippines would suffer the fate of our policy toward Iran in 78 when, as you recall, there was no agreement at the top levels of the Carter administration as to what we wanted to see happen in Iran. And I was always worried that that could
happen in the case of the Philippines, particularly if the American conservatives sort of latched on to Marcos is the last best hope for Western values and the Philippines against the advancing Red Horde. But the the saving factor I think was that by this time Marcos was so tarnished that no one, not even some of the most extreme right-wing spokesman in the United States, really wanted to wrap their arms around him. He was so bad in terms of public image that he didn't have that reservoir of support back in the States. And we never really got into a situation except for a couple of very temporary blips such as President Reagan's remark during the debate with Vice President Mondale in October of 84. We never really got into a situation where we did not have a pretty good policy consensus in Washington. Let's go on to the Lexalt meeting.
Why don't you tell us what happened there? Well, is you? I'm sorry if you feel sick as you know. No, I know. Okay. We had been pursuing for the previous 18 months a policy which was explicitly one which recognized that Marcos was the major source of the problems in the Philippines. But we coined the phrase that Marcos should be part of the solution. That was largely because there were no visible alternatives to Marcos. And it was hoped that Marcos could be persuaded to use his still very considerable powers of leadership and political charisma to sort of turn the Philippines around. He had a kind of an historic opportunity. He had taken the country away from democracy. Nobody was really arguing that
that had been a bad thing at the time. But now he had the opportunity to bring the country back to democracy to end the corruption, rebuild the military, have fair elections. You know, he could have been an historical figure. So that was the objective that we were pursuing for the first 18 months that I was there. We were going to make Marcos and the Marcos the reformer. Well, beginning in the sort of spring of 1985, I had come to the conclusion myself that this policy was simply not working. That Marcos either would not or indeed could not enact the sorts of reforms and political change that not only the United States was urging on. But that his own people increasingly were urging on. So I thought myself, and there were a couple of people in Washington at sort of the sub-cabinet level who agreed with me. I thought we needed to take a look at our policy. But we were persuaded
that before we gave up on trying to make Marcos part of the solution, we had to make one last effort to persuading that the United States really meant what he was hearing from me. And I knew that he tended to view me as the spokesman for the foreign policy bureaucracy. And we were looking for a way that we could communicate with Marcos so that he was left with no illusion that the message he was hearing was coming directly from his old friend Ronald Reagan. And that's when we designed the visit to Manila of Senator Laxall, who was both a political force in his own right, but who was more importantly known to be a public, political, and personal confidant of the president. And I must say the senator did a superb job. He looked at Marcos with a nice smile on his face and he let him have it right between the eyes.
We'd been trying to arrange the Laxall visit for a couple of months in the summer of 85. And finally, everything fell into place and he arrived in October, mid-October. And I had warned, not warned, but I had advised Marcos in advance that the senator was coming when he was coming as a personal emissary of President Reagan. And I knew that I'd gotten Marcos' attention. I mean, this was in effect ratcheting up the tension between the United States and the Marcos regime a couple of more notches. So the senator and I went down to the Malican young palace early one morning. I wanted to have a meeting when the palace was not full of people and press and media. I wanted to try to keep this thing as low profile in the public sense as possible. And we went down for breakfast about eight o'clock.
And that first meeting, first day, we were, there are almost three hours. Laxall described very well in some detail the mounting concern in Washington over what was seen to be a deteriorating situation in the Philippines. And Marcos, who I could see, was feeling pressed. I mean, I'd never seen him quite this tense before. He began a sort of long exposition, sort of self-justification for what was going on in the Philippines, trying to establish that there really were no problems of great consequence. And by that time, of course, one of the major issues between us was Marcos' announced intention to reinstate General Ver as chief of staff of the armed forces, assuming he was acquitted by the court, which was trying him for Aquino's assassination. And everybody knew he was going to be acquitted because the court was very much under government
control. And we had been saying that that would be an unmitigated political disaster in terms of the relationship between the United States and the Philippines, congressional attitudes, public response, et cetera. And so at my urging, Laxall bore in pretty hard on that one. And I think he got Marcos' attention, but Marcos would never commit not to bring Ver back. In many ways, I think Fabian Ver was Ferdinand Marcos' security blanket. He really felt better when Ver was around. And President at one point said, well, he said, I think my major problem in Washington is that I'm not getting my message across. And Laxall and I agreed that his public image wasn't the best back there. But I made a very strong point that you couldn't just talk of going out and hiring a PR firm to improve your image unless you were prepared to do some positive
things. Anyway, we went back the next day and had a briefer meeting. But at no time during either of those two meetings did Laxall raise or did Marcos raise the possibility of advancing to an earlier date the presidential elections, which were scheduled for sometime at 87. So Laxall went back to Washington. I sat there in Manila for a week or two trying to assess whether or not this had made a sufficient impression on Marcos that he would finally start to move meaningfully on basic reform of the system. And after a week or two, I pretty much concluded that it had not. And that there was not very much of a prospect that Marcos was, in fact, going to engage in that type of reform. And he then began saying, again, that he still intended to bring General Ver back.
By that time, the very issue had become kind of a political litmus test of Marcos' intentions. So I went back to the states on consultation in early November. Primarily because I was convinced in some of my colleagues in Washington were convinced that it was time that we took a whole new look at what we were trying to do in the Philippines. And my wife and I stopped in California to see her mother. And we were seated sitting in her mother's apartment in Los Angeles. That Sunday morning when Marcos came on the air on the Brinkley show and announced that he was going to have an early election. I was, I guess, shocked, but not all that surprised. And my immediate conclusion was that this was explicit confirmation that Marcos was not contemplating any reform whatsoever. And I think that what happened to him was that he reached a point where the pressure from his own
people reinforced by the pressure from the United States, and particularly at that critical moment, Laksal's visit on behalf of President Reagan and Laksal telling him, look, if you don't do these things, my president, your friend, isn't going to be able, despite what he might like to do, is not going to be able to manage the American end of the relationship, the way in which it should be managed. We're going to have some real problems. And I think Marcos finally realized that this wasn't going to go away, that it wasn't just a question of getting a new ambassador in a different message. But still, I think he could not reform. I don't think he had the psychological energy to engage in that sort of massive political undertaking. I think by that time he was too dependent on a corrupt military and a corrupt business element, so dependent that he couldn't really turn off the taps very well. And I think he simply concluded, all right, dammit,
I'm going to outflank these guys strategically. I'm going to have an election. The opposition is completely split. They have no real leader. I'm going to have an election. I'll win. And then I'll just tell the United States to go stuff it, because I will then have a new popular mandate. And how can they then attack me for not being legitimate? How can they then hector me for further reforms? What was your reaction, then, with cold free election? Now, I get sort of mixed, mixed stories. On the one hand, somebody said, Fred, he's going to have an election, and it's a fair election to lose it. And they had to get stories that there are a lot of people. I'm talking about our administration. I think it was, oh my god, he's going to rig the election to be there for the six years. Well, I think that's an accurate description of two of the camps in Washington and elsewhere in terms of the reaction to the election. Some said that, you know,
Marcos will cheat as much as he has to to win, so it's going to be a meaningless exercise. Others said, well, he probably still has enough popularity still to win anyway. And the opposition is still split. My own view was somewhat different. I mean, by that time, I had reached the conclusion that things were so bad in the Philippines, that any new phenomenon which tended to change the basic political calculation was probably over the longer run going to have a positive impact. I mean, the country was in a gridlock. Also, I was perhaps more optimistic than some of my colleagues in Washington about the ability of the opposition to pull themselves together behind a single candidate. Also, I thought from the beginning that probably Marcos had underestimated how much he was going to have to cheat in order to win. Because my sense,
and I think the sense in the embassy, and we spent a lot of energy and time traveling around the country and talking to people, our sense was that Marcos' popularity was pretty low. True, we had the machine of the KBL party that could still crank out votes and deliver in the provinces particularly. But the Akino assassination had changed the fundamental political calculus of the country. The economy was in turmoil. It was just an absolute disaster. And my sense was the people wanted change. And that given an opportunity, they would express themselves in favor of change. What about your role then as the opposition begins to look for a candidate? Who were you talking to? I mean, do you think you were playing some kind of role there? I mean, at this stage, you've given
up one before, right? Yeah, under Marcos' history. So, therefore, you've got to start thinking the unthinkable. What's the alternative? Well, I was thinking the unthinkable and thinking about alternatives and thinking about the opposition. And, you know, given the way attitudes were at that time in the Philippines, people had been agitating with me as the American ambassador for some time. Somehow, the United States should do something. And I was somewhat concerned that the opposition might make the mistake of counting on the United States to do things that they should be doing for themselves. Now, I thought it was very important that the opposition, if at all possible, unite behind a single candidate. Because if they didn't, I think not only would the anti-Marcos vote would have been split, but you wouldn't have had the sort of opportunity
for even as credible an expression of popular will as, in fact, eventually occurred. I thought you needed that one-on-one sort of situation. But I was not prepared to take on the burden of trying to tell the opposition who that one person should be. And I knew that my government wasn't either. And I thought that was very inappropriate. On the other hand, we did have something that the opposition wanted and wanted badly. And that was, I was prepared, Washington was prepared. I kept sort of tugging them along, but prepared to really stake the United States out on the issue of fair and credible elections. And to say from the beginning that we would work, we would try to work seriously with any government that was the product of a fair and honest election. Now, I knew that in saying that Marcos and his people would conclude that that was an anti-Marcos statement. And that's exactly what they did do. But I also made the point to the opposition
that this was some expenditure of political capital by the United States and that we were going to be greatly complicating our own existence in the Philippines, particularly if Marcos somehow won, at least if he won, what would be a credible election because the opposition had split the vote so much. So I said, you know, you shouldn't think that I'm calling into question our support for free and fair elections. But, you know, it would be a shame to expend all of this capital and not see the sort of framework for that election in terms of opposition unity that would make it most most meaningful. But I never got into a position of telling one candidate or one set of candidates that they should unite behind the other. There was a lot of speculation and rumor at the time that we had done that. That was not true. I had one or two prominent opposition candidates coming to me asking me to do that on their behalf. But in all cases,
I refused to get involved in that one. When did you first meet Corey? I mean, was it a surprise to you that Corey decided to be found? Well, not particularly, no. It was not particularly a surprise to me that Corey decided to become a candidate. I had first met her. I went over and called on her just a few weeks after I had arrived back in 84 and it was not on my part really a political gesture. It was a gesture of respect for the widow of a former political leader of the Philippines. And I found her, you know, just the same way I've always found Corey Aquino, you know, warm, open, very simple in the best sense of the word, unpretentious. And Chris and I, my wife and I saw her from time to time, largely social affairs. So we had had some personal contact with her, but not a lot. She was not out on the manila social circuit and we tried to limit our own
outings on that circuit. But we'd seen something ever. But I had been told as early as mid 85 that some in the opposition had concluded that in all likelihood, Corey was the only person who could unite the opposition because she was the only one who could make eventually make the others sit down. The other candidates sit down. You had this situation of, you know, six to 12 people all thinking that they had as much right to be the opposition standard bearer as anyone else. And no primary process or no kind of Darwinian procedure to winnow down that number. And the only way it eventually happened was when Corey set herself out as a candidate. Having obtained these petitions with one million signatures. Everyone else eventually concluded they couldn't stand in the face of that that landslide movement. Doyler-Rell was the last one to make that decision and that required
a little brokering on the part of the cardinal. But I think in the end, the opposition came together the way I'd hoped that they would come together. And they did so very much without any direct United States involvement. Let's talk about indirect United States involvement because you have real or perceived, you know, feelings. I mean, did anybody approach you, you know, for kind of validation, approval, endorsement, or what, what are the words you want to use? Yeah. Well, I suppose you could say that some did. Corey did not. Corey never once came to me and said, you know, why don't you persuade these other people not to run? I think once Corey made the decision that she was going to run, you know, this is the way she is. I mean, she never looked back, you know, like satchel page. And she never called that decision into question. And she never really considered
running as anyone's vice presidential candidate. That wasn't why she'd become a political figure. Well, you concerned that, I mean, at the time, I want people to jump in the conclusion with that, okay, so he'd have his election, he would rig his election. Nobody imagined that everyone talked about, okay, a fair election, he would lose it, but nobody expected he would have a fair election. And what was your answer? I wasn't really sure what would happen to tell you the truth except that I was persuaded that the majority of the Filipino people wanted change. I thought that they would try as best they could to affect that change through an election. I had been very impressed in 1984 in the National Assembly election by NAMFRAEL's success, the Citizen's Electoral Group. And I knew that NAMFRAEL was going to make a major effort in the presidential elections. I also knew, however, that this time around Marcos would not be surprised by NAMFRAEL, and he'd be ready for them. I thought that any sort of straight
fair election Marcos would lose. I didn't expect that he would not cheat. I expected that quite likely he would have to cheat so much that the plausibility of the victory would be called very much into question, not just in the Philippines, but internationally, particularly with regard to the United States. I mean, in a very major way, Marcos had held this election for the benefit of the United States, not for the benefit of the Philippines. Okay, let's say, I mean, it's a little hypothetical, but someone's working back in the industry. Let's say he cheats massively, then what do we do? Well, I think what happens then is a kind of inexorable result of our own political process, and this is what I kept telling people in the Philippines. The United States Congress will not appropriate aid for the Philippines. You will not find the United States is amenable to special trade concessions. American banks will be less willing to extend new credits to the
Philippines. All of the things which make for a kind of rich texture of a relationship will gradually fall away. Marcos would, in that case, been standing there trying to govern the Philippines and trying to manage a U.S. Philippine relationship with basically no credibility, no legitimacy. But do you think that when you make that remark, is that, I mean, those things, those kind of remarks have a lot of weight in the Philippines, as you know. Do you think that those are being interpreted to mean, listen, if Marcos wins again, you can expect all these complications. Even though you're couching in terms of, are they seeing that as a, how did you attend it? And how do you think they saw it? Well, you see, in my mind, I wasn't trying to exercise leverage. I wasn't trying to create a situation. I was trying to describe as accurately as I could. What I considered would be the inevitable consequence of massive fraud by Marcos in an election.
That there was no way that the quality of the relationship between his government, under those circumstances in the United States, would not erode disastrously. So, my public posture was, our public posture from the embassy, and indeed from Washington, was that we would work with whatever government resulted from a fair election in which the majority of the Filipino people considered to have been honest. Now, people would ask me, well, how are you going to know when I say, well, you'll be able to tell. You're not going to conduct a plebiscite, but you'll be able to tell. Now, not surprisingly, the government, the Marcos forces in... That's all right. Now, the Marcos forces, not surprisingly, interpreted that, which I thought was about as
neutral and objective as I could phrase it, interpreted that as basically being anti-Marcos pro-opposition. And I began to receive a lot of brick bats in the press and elsewhere, and Marcos and the palace got their machine cranked up, and there were resolutions introduced in the National Assembly to declare me persona non-grata for interfering in the internal affairs of the Philippines, etc. But I felt myself comfortable with that as a position. I... I mean, we couldn't have simply sat there and not said anything. We had to say something. We can't say, well, it's all right if Marcos cheats a little bit, but he can't cheat too much. So I thought that this public formulation was about the right... the right one. Could you talk about... Do you think that the Cardinal Synnolite of our important role literal is kind of matchmaking and organization of an opposition? Well, Cardinal Synn played an important personal role, I think, in bringing about the final
unification of the opposition, namely Cory, or Quino and Doyle-Arrell, in a way which minimized the frictions at that time, and I think promoted opposition, harmony, and unity. I think beyond the Cardinal, what was a terribly important factor in the political events of that period was the role of the Catholic Church. And that was far more than the Cardinal, although the Cardinal was obviously a leading figure in that. But the Cardinal from Cebu, who was then the President of the Council of Bishop, Conference of Bishops of the Philippines, and the Bishops themselves, and the priests and the nuns. I mean, Namferl, for example, the Citizen's Election Watching Organization, was basically an alliance between the modern business community, mainly Manila based, and the Church. You know, in many parts of the Philippines, the Namferl workers, the
pull watchers, were trained and put there by the local priest. So the Church's role in all of this was very important, as was the Cardinal's no question about it. What about your own relationship with Cardinal Sun? He's very, you know, he's very pro-American, and his sisters living in the States, and so forth. He sings, or he's children's songs that he reverts for his American school days, and so forth. Well, the Cardinal is one of my great favorites. I have a lot of respect for him, a lot of affection for him. He is a real public character, and he's a private character as well. I was talking with the Cardinal periodically during my entire stay in the Philippines. I mean, as one of my sort of early courtesy calls, I went out and called on the Cardinal in his palace, and by that time, of course, the Cardinal and the Church were increasingly political. They argued, and I think correctly, that their mission simply didn't allow them to stand
quiescently on the side and not do something about what was going on. People were starving, etc. So I would see the Cardinal from time to time. He would occasionally chide me, because I may have had my picture taken with the Marcos' or something, and he was concerned that I was not going to become too close to them. And he would frequently chide the United States for not moving more vigorously to get rid of the Marcos regime, but I kept arguing with him that that was not our responsibility. And I think in the end, I think he would have concluded that we did about the right thing at the right time. I mean, you never had one of these conversations where he sat down, and he would say, hey, Steve, listen, we got to do something about this situation. Well, yes, I mean, he would say that. Well, he would say, you know, the country is in terrible condition, and I'd say, well, the economy is collapsed. And I remember one of the Cardinal's responses to that was, you know, it's not the economy, Ambassador. It's not poverty. We Filipinos
have known poverty for generations, and we know how to handle poverty. It's the misjustice, the injustice. That's what drives people into the arms of the communists. That's why we have an insurgency. I think in many ways he was right. But did you ever actually sort of say to you, the United States has to do something about this? Well, never actually in so many words that he ever say that the United States should do something about this. I think he was very concerned about sort of the moral position of the United States. I mean, he is a friend of the United States. He was very concerned that we sort of be on the right side in terms of what was happening in the Philippines. And that he would tell me from time to time. Let me just so put this in perspective. During this period, our late 85, we're going into a campaign to study who we are allies in Washington. At what stage would you say, for example,
you don't want to get involved in a lot of names that are not going to be linked to viewers, even though we know, you know, guys like Mike Markov, or Admiral Crowe, or more and more always people like that. When did you begin to get the feeling, for example, that George Schultz is coming aboard? Well, I had always had the feeling that George Schultz believed that there should be change in the Philippines, that the status quo was not even a medium term solution. But he was very concerned that that change occur in as evolutionary a fashion as possible. And I remember once just before I went out there, actually it was when I was back, I'd been out there for about eight months and I came back on consultation. And as I almost always did on these trips back to Washington, went in and spent some time with the secretary. And I remember as I was
explaining to him some of the intricacies of the political culture of the place of the time. He said to me, he said, Steve, this is not a time to try to hit home runs. He said, let's try to score a runner two. Maybe get a bass on balls and a sacrifice but maybe a single. But he said, I think we've got to take a steady position on this. We can't hope to see some short term, sort of miraculous solution to the problems that the Philippines faces. But he, I think from the beginning, was persuaded that the Marcos era was drawing to an end when that would happen under what circumstances it would happen was of course impossible to foresee. But there were, you know, the Philippine policy was a kind of remarkable one in some ways in my experience in government. Because we managed to maintain a consensus within the administration within the executive branch. The consensus that was really had its roots in sort
of the sub cabinet level of government. I mean, the cabinet level officers, secretary of defense, secretary of state, national security adviser, they were all following the Philippines but the policy was kind of being guided by undersecretaries and assistant secretaries. And it wasn't until Marcos called the election that the Philippines as a kind of foreign policy crisis jumped up to the top of everyone's list, including the cabinet itself. Before we go to that, I don't know because I want to get to that point. What about Congress? I mean, did you feel that you had any special allies or it's not like, or foes? I mean, I feel it was resistance in some places. Well, again, I think as I'm, as in the case of consensus within the executive, another very important part of what success we eventually enjoyed was the fact that we managed to maintain a bipartisan consensus within the Congress over kind of the
basic outline of our Philippine policy. And there were some people in the Congress who were extremely helpful in maintaining that consensus. Not that they would always do anything the administration wanted them to do by any means, but it was in that process of negotiation, a good faith negotiation between people like Steve Solars and the House of Representatives and several senators and the administration, on the other hand, in that sort of good faith negotiation, that I think we worked out what was actually quite a balanced policy. I mean, we did not reject Marcos. We did not try to get rid of Marcos. On the other hand, we were saying consistently, I think, Philippine should return to democratic institutions. You should have, they should have fair elections, not because we want them, because the Filipino people want them. You should end corruption and revitalize the economy.
And those were kind of the basic elements of our policy and ones on which the Congress felt very comfortable. Now, very often in these kind of tricky situations, the great advocates of a status quo or the military and so forth, in this case you have Admiral Crow. And I just how much dealing did you have with him? Oh, quite a bit. He was a very... Admiral Crow, who... Well, Admiral Crow was, when I first arrived in the Philippines, was the Commander-in-Chief of the Pacific located in Honolulu. And he made several visits to Manila in that first year or year and a half that I was there. He then went on to become chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, but he maintained this very high level of interest in the Philippines. And I had developed tremendous regard for Admiral Crow. I think he's one of our finest military
statesmen. He was very concerned about the state of the Philippine military, which by 1984, by the time I arrived, was clearly deteriorating rapidly. And in my judgment and the judgment of our embassy no longer really had the capacity to contest effectively with this growing communist led insurgency out in the countryside. And Bill Crow came and I think greed saw immediately two things. One, that the communist insurgency was growing rapidly. And two, that the Philippine military was on a curve going in the opposite direction. And it was his sort of advocacy of those two points back in Washington that helped in the summer and fall of 84, I think, to sort of energize the Washington community that things in the Philippines were really getting getting
rather grim. Now, the question is, the big headline or the big title is the fight for the president's mind. You know, he has, I mean, as it's been described, you know, he's a man who's very loyal to people. And you know, he had this friend, Marcos, the old freedom fighter, the anti-communist, the guy who was nice to the month of 1969 party at the so-and-so for it. And, you know, he's got built in, there was a built-in resistance, I don't see much about that. I wonder if you were, is that something that was going on in Washington that was alien to you? Well, not entirely. I mean, that the president did, of course, have a lot of conflicting pressures on him in his relationship with the Marcos' and his wife's relationship with the Marcos' his, I think, genuine philosophical bold attachment to the need for the United States to sort of stand by its friends. And I personally
find that, you know, fairly powerful argument. I saw the president, President Reagan, frequently when I was back in Washington on consultations. And I would go in and brief him. There were always a lot of other people present, but they were basically just there to listen members of the White House staff and the national security staff, council staff and various people from state or defense. And he was always, you know, I was always struck by the fact that he seemed to be pretty up to date on what was going on out there. He was obviously very concerned with what was happening there. And I think, you know, it was, it was apparent that he felt this conflict. On the other hand, the situation was deteriorating so badly that it was very difficult for anyone to say, stop. You know, we can't back off from Marcos. The future may bring worse things. He's better than what might come after him. I mean, first of all, he seemed to be mortally
ill so that what might come after him might be coming after him in any event, no matter what we did. And secondly, the insurgency was growing. The military was disintegrating. The public protests were growing. The economy was in chaos. I mean, there was never really a point at which anyone could stand up and say, stop. I mean, he's the best we're going to get. Let's stick with him. And I think we were fortunate that that point never came. Did you find any resistance in the White House? I mean, there were moments when people like Regan were very... Well, I was never clear what happened in the White House exactly during that week between the election and the Philippines and, well, the first week after the election. Well, I think that there was something of a battle going on, and I know there was within the White House, with some of the White House staff, and I gather that Don Regan was part of this,
trying, I think, I would hope to simply ensure that the process didn't move too quickly, that we didn't make a mistake by trying to get too far out ahead. But the statement that the president made right after the election about there having been fraud on both sides, quite frankly produced. It was probably the single worst day of my life, because I had to then try to deal with the consequences of that in Manila, where it came like a giant tub of cold water, because what the opposition thought they were hearing was confirmation of their worst suspicions, that in the end, despite all of our rhetoric about support for democratic processes and free elections, that in the end, we would go home with a guy that we came with, and that was for Nan Marcus. That's what they thought they were beginning to hear. Well, let's spin it out a little bit here. Did you have an
actual confrontation with Cory over this or a discussion here? Well, when that more early, that morning, I had been out at the house getting ready to come into the office, and because of the time difference, bad news usually arrived there early in the morning, because that was the evening or late afternoon in the United States. And the president was just coming on the radio when I left with this news conference. And by the time I got to the embassy 20 minutes later, he had made this remark about there having been fraud on both sides. And of course, our staff in the embassy was absolutely on the floor and devastated by this, because they recognized that it was a tremendous political liability. We get back, I get back to the embassy, and the president has made this remark in his news conference about fraud on both sides. And our whole staff is devastated. I mean,
they've been working 20 hours a day, literally, for weeks dedicated to this proposition that the United States was going to stand on the principle of fair elections. And we had watched the elections unfold. And it was quite clear to us that there really wasn't fraud on both sides. There was massive fraud on the government side. So that, you know, was unobvious. And that was one of those rare events which could really turn a policy around or turn a situation around. Because I was concerned that if the opposition concluded that, in effect, this was assigned that the United States was going to stick with Marcos, that it would become one demoralized very quickly. And two, that it would develop a very nasty anti-US edge. So by this time it was early evening in Washington, and I didn't really have time or opportunity to do much consulting other than
a couple of phone conversations. But I simply called the Cory Aquino's office and said, I want to come over and talk to her. And went over, I wanted to tell her anyway that Phil Habib was going to be coming out as a presidential fact finder. So I went over to Mrs. Aquino's office, which was in the co-onco building, a big skyscraper, relatively speaking in Makati. And it was like walking into a freezer, I mean, the entire suite of offices where she was working, was just chilled. And these were all people that I'd, you know, seen quite a bit of. I went into her office, and she was there with her, I think it was with her brother, the ping and Ramon Mitra, Munching Mitra, who was an old friend in acquaintance.
And I had never had the full benefit of one of Cory Aquino's icy removents before, but she was no doubt very upset, angry. And I simply said, you know, look, this isn't the real US position, which you've heard. All I can do is tell you to be patient. It takes us a while sometimes to come to the proper conclusion. But in this instance, I'm fundamentally convinced we will come to the proper conclusion. And you will see that, and I hope you will see it fairly soon. So just please, I ask, you know, exercise a little patience. So she said, okay, I'll do that. Maybe I'll even see her be, who is coming as the president of Emissary. Maybe I'll even see her be when he comes. And that was it. Let's go back a moment, too. Let's go to Happy Eve's trip.
In the whole shape of things that respect her, how important is that? I mean, what was filled in there? Hold on to it. Okay. Well, I think Phil's trip was important. I don't think it was kind of a watershed anyway. Phil's trip, you know, bear in mind, was designed for one primary purpose. There were some other secondary purposes, but the primary purpose was to gain some time. We had to do something while we tried to figure out what was going to happen in the Philippines and what we should do. And so fundamentally, by sending Phil out, Washington bought a week. Now, they also happened to pick, I think, exactly the right person to send out, because this is a consummate professional. He's used to dealing in crises of this sort. He was not about to be intimidated by Ferdinand Marcos.
He had nothing to gain or lose in Washington for his own personal situation, so he could actually call him as he saw him. So from the time he arrived, I mean, he made it very clear that he was not there to try to decide who would really want the election. That was a close chapter as far as we were concerned. Nor was he there to mediate between Cory Aquino and Ferdinand Marcos. He was there for one reason only, and that was to assess the situation. In an effect, and he told this to Marcos, he was there to try to assess whether or not Ferdinand Marcos still had the capability of governing the Philippines. Now, I had already reached my own conclusion on that, but I was actually supportive of the idea of Phil coming out because he had Ronald Reagan's credibility. He had credibility with Ronald Reagan. He had worked for him on
similar emissions before. And I knew Phil, I had known him for 20 years, and I knew what his instincts were and what his beliefs were, his values. And I was pretty confident. He would come out on the same side of all of this that I had, which was fundamentally that the Marcos era was over. It was a question of how you disengaged him or how he was disengaged. It wasn't a question of whether or not you could somehow extend him and give him new life. And Phil spent six days there, and that was basically the conclusion he came to. I did want to ask you one question, to go back in a moment. After you had the session with Cory over the fluid on both sides, did you have some input into getting the President back on track, or the Reagan back on track, screened back to Washington? Oh, I screamed. Well, I screamed immediately at the first person I could reach on the phone when I got back there. But of course, I was like the minister preaching to the choir. I mean, everyone I was talking to was just as horrified by the President's statement
as I was. And finally, I got a message back in directly. I think it was from Secretary Schultz saying, all right, you've made your point. Relax. We'll try to get it fixed. But I, you know, it was one of those times when you just feel so kind of personally embarrassed. I remember I met Dick Romulo, who was General Romulo's son. Dick's a very prominent attorney in Manila. And he was one of the leaders of the Namferl movement. And I met Dick one evening day or two after Reagan had made that remark. And the general had died about a month before. And I remember, I'll never forget it, Dick coming up to me and saying to me, Steve, he said, I never thought I would believe that I was glad that my father had passed away. But knowing how deeply he loved the United States, I'm glad he's not here to see this. And that was a pretty
powerful thing. And I put it in a telegram and sent it right back to Washington. How much latitude do you think you had? I mean, he had a very fast moving situation. And there's a whole spotlight. Suddenly, you know, the Philippines, the news media are out there and the great heard, Congress is out there, these observable groups and stuff like that. Did you feel your operating very much on your role? Are you checking into Washington constantly? No. I mean, I was in touch with Washington a lot. And, you know, we had secure telephone lines and we were talking a lot. But I never felt that I was constrained. I mean, I'd been a professional foreign service officer for almost 25 years at that point. I, you know, I tended to be cautious. I wasn't, I didn't think it was time for rash behavior out there. I thought it was a time for professionalism.
I didn't think that it was a time for the embassy to be kind of spouting off one way or the other, rather we should simply keep quiet and do our jobs as best we could. And I think that, you know, I hope rightly, people in Washington had confidence in my judgment. They didn't think I was going to do anything wild. I was, so I think that I probably had a little bit more flexibility than would have been normal under those circumstances. But also, I think it's important to remember that the thing was moving so fast that, you know, they never had time to send me instructions. They barely had time to make decisions themselves as to what they wanted to see happen, wanted us to do. So that I really had to, you know, be comfortable with what we were about, what our objectives were, and have enough inner serenity to go out there and do it, even though I didn't in all cases have a sign piece of paper saying this is the policy and this is what we want you to do.
Let's, we want to sort of lead up to the, to the mutiny now. Whenever you tell me on the phone the other day that you began to get worded, the ram, I don't have any much for that. So ram, you'll be getting to hear about the ram guys plotting it. Let's see if we can use some of the firm, a term that ram because it doesn't need a few years. But anyway, the military rebels or whatever, a young officer is there. This Marvel scene, these guys sitting around the peninsula hotel lobby, plotting a coup, drinking beer, and of course, everybody knowing what's going on. And that story, you told me about your trying to stop them from doing anything. What, what was this? Well, the, the dissent within the military was a long-standing phenomenon. Far more, far more so than frankly, we realized. What really brought it to our attention was a demonstration up at the Philippine Military Academy in March of 85 when a group of younger officers,
a few hundred of them, engaged in a demonstration during a parade up there, protesting corruption and the lack of professionalism within the military. And that was the first time that we had seen any sort of public manifestation of, of serious discontent within the military. And we spent a lot of time over the next few months trying to assess, I mean, just how serious that was, how many, how many people they represented, what their views were, what they were really trying to accomplish. And fairly early on, we realized that a very close attachment to Johnny and really the minister of defense. And it, I was never entirely clear of how much they were telling Johnny about what they were talking about, et cetera. But I thought he was, generally, he knew what was going on. But along toward the fall of 1985, as the situation in the Philippines became even worse and as, it became publicly apparent that the relationship with the United States on the part of Marcos had,
had gotten a lot tensor. We began to get, you know, sort of rumbles back through various people that these young officers who by this time had named themselves the reform, the armed forces movement, which, according to the course of the Philippines, immediately gave them an acronym, the Rams, you know, which I think was kind of a conscious image that they were adopting. But we began to get word back that these guys were talking about some rather wild things. They had concluded that if Marcos brought their back that they couldn't handle that, they would have to act. And one of our young military attaches who had, had a relationship with these, some of these people for some time, you know, was telling us that these, this is what they were talking about. I didn't, for some time, pay all that much attention to them because there is a certain amount of bombast in that society. They can also be deadly serious at times,
but there's a certain amount of what they call moral, moral, you know, talking for the theatrical effect of it. But these guys, these young majors and lieutenant colonels used to sit in the lobby of the peninsula hotel, which is a big lobby with, you know, tables and chairs and there's bar there. And they'd sit there and drink beer and talk about how they were going to knock off the government. I thought it was absolutely the most bizarre thing I'd ever heard. But I was convinced that if we knew all about this, then I was sure that Marcos, and if not Marcos, certainly Fabian Vera knew about all of this because he was above all the intelligence chief Parax Alons. And I was sure he had that group thoroughly infiltrated. But they kept saying, well, we're going to do it. We're going to do it. And finally, after a substantial consultation with Washington, we sent word back to them saying, don't do it. We will look with great disfavor on any effort to bring about political change through military means in this country. And then because we were
concerned that Vera might reach out and smash them just to kind of eliminate the threat, we also sent word to Vera that we hope that he wouldn't try to do that. But if he did, it would very seriously affect our view of him. Not that our view of him was very positive at that point anyway. But basically warned him that we would not look lightly on any effort to take care of these people. So that has kind of gotten twisted around in the public telling since then, some of the Rams later came forward and said that United States had somehow blown their plan to the government of the Philippines, et cetera. And Marcos has claimed that we were encouraging the Rams to do what they did. And the truth of the matter is we didn't want either one of them to do anything. I was convinced, and I think I know Washington was, that a military coup in the Philippines would have been a very, very undesirable thing. It would have
let a genie escape from the bottle that you would have had great difficulty ever putting back. And in fact, the military's involvement in the eventual overthrow of the Marcos government was a severely complicating political factor in the Philippines for the first two years of Mrs. Aquino's administration. Let's go on to the first, let me read, let's rephrase this to now the mutiny that happens on the 22nd of February, right, is really the thing that sort of turns the situation around. Well, I'll just go back and ask you, did you have any rumblings or something happening before or did it come as a surprise to you? No, we had rumblings that things that we had rumblings that the young officers were so disturbed that they, despite what we had said, they were determined to go ahead and do this. Well, our military experts, our military advisors in the embassy, their unanimous view was that if these guys ever tried to do anything, they would be absolutely decimated. And they had bizarre schemes about floating down the Paseg River on rubber
rafts and storming the palace. And, you know, you had to know that Vera would have had several battalions there waiting for them. Well, then, in effect, what happened was that they continued to plot, and it was a little bit of a kind of pre-adolescent boy behavior about all of this. You know, I was struck by this a couple of times. It was almost like young boys 10 years old playing war and, you know, planning things and practicing. Whether they actually would have ever done anything or not, I don't know. But in any case, Vera eventually did decide to pre-empt them. And he scooped up some of their compatriots. And when they learned that that had happened, they panicked. And they went and got in, really. And they all took refuge out in Camp Aguinaldo. But it wasn't really a coup. It wasn't even really a failed coup. It was just kind of a blown
plan, you know, and it was kind of a very bizarre. But the mutiny was, well, it was kind of a mutiny after the fact, after they had created a situation in which they'd, in effect, burned their political bridges to Marcos. Then they declared that they were in mutiny. But if you, in effect, it was Marcos's burden to bridges to them, but they're at, by... That's certainly what they would argue. And I think there probably is some truth to that. I think that they had reason to be concerned that they would be next on Vera's list. You know, I think it was a very dangerous situation for the Philippines as a whole at that point. I think Marcos was feeling extremely desperate. I mean, he knew that the United States was backing away from him as fast as we possibly could. The opposition was refusing to accept this fraudulent election. Cori Aquino had in effect said, hell no. And she'd, you know,
massed a million or more people in the streets of Manila. He was dealing with a tender box. And I think, you know, in effect, Vera either acted without express permission, or they kind of got out of control. But I think the prospect of this military element breaking away, which was, after all, quite small. I mean, you know, there weren't very many of these guys ever, a few hundred at most. It wasn't until Eddie Ramos joined them and began to effectively enlist the support of other more professional people throughout the armed forces that their military support began to grow. But initially, there were just a few hundred guys. Do you want to say they were somewhat partial to the New Year's? Well, I think that the fundamental thing that we did early on was urge Marcos not to use force. Yeah, sorry, go ahead. I was just starting over again.
And, you know, after the military rebels had taken refuge out in Camp Aguinaldo, and after Johnny and really had called me and told me what was happening, I think that the most important thing that the United States did initially was to make a series of private demarshes to Marcos and then a public statement that we urged him not to use force to put this down. Now, that meant that he either had to go against our will, and that would have caused even more of a crisis in the relationship, or that he was reduced to negotiating with these guys. And they wouldn't negotiate with him. And Marcos got very irritated with me about this point, because he kept saying, you know, these are coupplotters. This is an illegitimate effort to overthrow the government. And of course, that's what he was saying publicly. The irony is that by that time, none of the Filipinos believed anything Marcos said. But in this particular instance,
what he was saying was actually true. That group of military had been talking about a coup. Then, I'm sorry, so in a sense, what is your response? Yes, we are supporting the coup. My response was, you know, simply to tell him, reading again, the first paragraph. We urge you not to use violence. I mean, I was not at that point prepared to get into a negotiation with Marcos about this. My first concern was that what we were seeing was purely a military coup attempt. I had no great confidence that Johnny and really's goal in life was to install Corazon Aquino as president of the Philippines. I was afraid that the military, perhaps with some elements of the Marcos government itself, might try to supplant Marcos, but not to allow Corazon Aquino in the game. And I thought that would have been a disaster because I thought that the majority
of the Filipino people wouldn't stand for that either. Anyway, I had no confidence that the Philippine military could run a country. They were having a lot of difficulty just running a military. So in the first day or so, what I was really concerned about was whether or not this was basically just a military coup. And we were all watching very carefully to see how the public reacted and how Cori reacted. And when she flew back from Cebu, and then more importantly, in some ways, when the people began to come out into the streets, and in effect, they sort of quarried the military rebels. And the military never really had a chance to avoid being affiliated with the opposition, political opposition, because the political opposition just took them over. And that, again, is a role, of course, or a place where the Cardinal Sins role was very important that night when he got on the radio and said, you know, Mr. Henry Lee and General Ramos are down
there in the camp. They don't even have food. And if you people believe that they are doing the right thing, it would be correct to go help them. And they came out by the hundreds of thousands. So you think that, again, we're almost constantly analyzing Marcos in this kind of situation, that he does refrain from using force. And there is that peculiar debate on television, where they want to use it. He does it. Do you think that your influence was prevailing? I think our influence was important for the first day or even two days. I think our influence on Marcos with regard to the use of force was important for that at first day, basically, Saturday night and Sunday. But I think there's pretty solid evidence that that Marcos, the fact that Marcos didn't use force, was due primarily to the fact that the
military could not deliver force. Either the military couldn't fight, which was the case some of the units, or it wouldn't fight because their leaders and the troops had some degree of sympathy for Ramos and his people out of Camp Alguinillo and in the Camp Cromy. You know, we know that Marcos and General Ramos and Vair and others were ordering units out of Camp Bonifacio to charge up Edsa to do things, clear away the civilians. And nothing ever happened. Either the crowds wouldn't let them through and the military wasn't willing to use sufficient force to force their way through, or the military unit would go out and it would disappear. But when this decision was made to refuel helicopters at Cork, was that your decision? It was made on my recommendation. Well, we had, and really at Ramos had actually called me and
asked whether we would be willing to refuel these helicopters at Cork. The helicopters, of course, were very important both psychologically and in terms of security. And they were the only things that the rebels had which sort of counterbalanced all of the other stuff that the loyalist forces had. And Eddie made a convincing case to me. He said, look, we need these. He said, I know you're not trying to get that involved or you don't want to tilt. But he said, we really need these. And if we don't have fuel for them, they're worthless to us. So I called Washington and we talked briefly and then agreed that we would refuel them. I called and really back and said that we were willing to refuel them. But I just heard that one of them had strafe the palace. And I wanted some assurance that they wouldn't do that again if we were going to refuel them
because I didn't want the U.S. to have the moral responsibility of aiding that sort of thing. So I consider that the helicopters were largely for defensive purposes, not offensive purposes. Was there any stage of which you considered getting the Marines, U.S. Marines ready to evacuate Americans or anything like that? I asked the question because when we through Marcos, pick a toe to this one from the front, the clients that you called them and told them you would use the Marines to blast them out of the palace. Okay, we're not going to use any of the Marcos stuff because it's cock-eyed and we don't want to get into a debate about it. But is it possible that the Marines were on the alert to help America to defend Americans? And that this is something that you might have misconstrued? Well, I never considered it all using the Marines, except for one very specific purpose. And I'll come to that in just a minute. You know, there were some suggestions from the side of the rebels that would be nice to have
the Marines come in and help them at Camp Cromy. There were some American civilians in Manila, the tens of thousands who lived there who thought it would be nice to have the Marines come in and take them out. But we had so many American citizens in the Philippines that it was clear that the only way, the best way to try to preserve their well-being was to simply tell them to stay at homes, stay off the streets and not get involved. And I think by and large all of them did that. But I never had any illusion whatsoever that under any, but the most extreme circumstances would the United States government send Marines or any other US military into the middle of the Philippines to do things there. Now, the one exception was that I became after I had a series of rather stiff exchanges with Marcos. I realized that we were basically relying on Marcos' military and Marcos' police to protect our embassy. We had 10 or 12 Marine guards, but that
wouldn't have done much. And I became concerned that I was trying not to be paranoid, but I became concerned that the option of allowing somebody to grab the embassy and then being involved in a hostage situation, et cetera, might begin to look fairly attractive to some people. So I called Admiral Khan, Rudy Khan, who was command at Subik. And I asked Rudy how long it would take him to put a company of Marines on the embassy grounds. And he called back and said that he could deliver the Marines within 45 minutes after my phone call, that they were sleeping on the tarmac next to the helicopters. So other than making that contingency arrangement, which I never incidentally implemented, I came close, very close, one way. But we never implemented it. But other than that, I never had any thought of bringing Marines into the Philippines.
Well, we're not going to get involved in this kind of debate. The other thing he did tell us was that he had a phone call from somebody in Washington warning him that American gun boats were going to come on the passive river and blast him out of the palace. And I just curious, I mean, again, maybe we'll get into a later, but who was it that they called him for more? I have no idea of. Let's skip it, because we're not going to get into it. Okay, they're just one more, but two more things. One is a narrative thing, which was the whole thing about he gets on the, we put him on the helicopter and the decision where he goes. And I get it. It has to do with you're talking to Cory. Well, beginning, I guess, on Monday when we began to really address the question of how we would get Marcos out. This is, sorry, let me go back. This is before the lack of full call. Yes. You know, in other words, you've been decided to get rid of Marcos even before a lack
Oh, yes. Yes. No, we, you know, following a meeting that took place in Washington with the President on Sunday, I received first an oral instruction and then one of my few written instructions to tell Marcos that we believe that the time it arrived for a transition and that we were prepared to assist in making that transition as peaceful as possible. Now, he exploded when I gave him that message by phone, but that was probably 24 hours before, well, 18 hours before he talked with Paul Axel back in Washington. You see, again, he wasn't... I think at that point, it was probably armor cost. Okay. Well, let's, let's pick it up. Let's do it. Just start to get on. Sunday is a meeting with the President. We have to do the 23rd. Yeah. Okay. And you get a phone call
immediately after that? Well, remember that Sunday is Monday morning in the Philippines. Right. So, and I got a phone call. Okay. Sorry. Let's start on again. Sorry. Sunday, of course, Sunday afternoon in Washington is as early Monday morning in the Philippines. So, when that meeting ended, I got a phone call because it was 4 o'clock in the morning or so, my time, saying that I would be getting written instructions, but that basically we had concluded as I and others had recommended that the time for sort of active movement toward a transition had arrived, otherwise there could be considerable bloodshed. And I gave that message to Marcos within the next few hours. He rejected it. He didn't accept it. And I think, again, it was an example of his refusing to believe something unless he heard it through a channel that he thought really was the President, President Reagan. And that's when, later that night, he called Paul Axel and asked him if it was really true what I had told him that we wanted him to leave.
But when you got that message, let's pause here and just wait for the subway or whatever it is to just got a little time. Okay. Okay. Thank you. It's when you got that message at 4 o'clock on on Monday, and at the time you talked to Marcos, that you began to prepare his departure. That's right. You take us for that? Well, we had to determine this was beginning Monday. How would we get him out, assuming that he did not want the Philippine military, which by now had almost mutineted his entirety to take him out. All of his pilots had defected. They had mutinied long ago, so we had these planes out at the airport, but no one to fly them. We were, eventually, we produced three different plans. We'd take him out either by automobile to Manila International Airport and fly him out from there,
or we would take him out by sea, by a barge down the Paseg River, or we would take him out by helicopter to Clark. And after our military people staffed this out as they say, they concluded that the best of all of the options was to take him out by helicopter. And when we got into the process, then, of negotiating his actual departure with him, we offered him the helicopter. We also said that we could try to bring a ship into the Paseg if he wished. He came back and said he wanted to leave by helicopter, but that there were a lot of people and couldn't we do a barge as well as the two helicopters. So that is in the end what we did do. But there was never any armed barge involved. This was the admiral's barge from Subek, which is a converted one mine sweeper, I think, on some small craft. A decision where was going? I mean, I don't know whether this is true or not,
but the story is that did he think he was going to Ilokas, Northe? Did he think he was leaving the country? There was a story that you call a court that would shouldn't do in you, and she's supposed to send houses instead of from whatever the story is. Well, we offered him sanctuary in the United States. So when I was negotiating with him to get him out of the Melican Young Palace, I mean, that was clearly the backdrop against which that negotiation was being carried out. When he got on the helicopter to fly to Clark, he knew he was going to Clark, because that's where we told him he was going, and that's where he said he wanted to go. Now, he did want to stay in the Philippines. He wanted to go up to Ilokas, up to Lwag, and I'm not quite sure how long he wanted to stay. I said, we need just to have you pick up, he wanted to go up to Ilokas, because these geographic names are hard for us to deal with. If you could just say, if you want to go up to his home,
to go to Ilokas. Sure. Now, he wanted to go up to his home province in a local Northe, I put the top of Luzon, but we had never made any commitment to him to do that. Our agreement was to take him to Clark. We got him to Clark, and I was asked by Washington to find out from Mrs. Aquino whom we had just recognized as the new president of the Philippines, whether or not she would allow Marcos to stay in the country. And I called her, and I didn't tell her, but I thought it was an absolutely goofy idea. But I gave it to her straight. She said, I'll call you back, and she called me back in a few minutes and said, you know, how is he? Is he really ill? I said, well, he's exhausted, but beyond that, I don't know. She said, well, I'm willing to have him spend the night at Clark and rest, but after that, he's got to leave the country. And I said, thank you very much,
and I passed that word back to Washington. And I told her people up at Clark were, by this time, Marcos had arrived. So then the security situation began to deteriorate up at Clark, and the commanders up there decided that they wanted him out of there as soon as they could. They didn't want to wait until the morning. Well, the commanders up at Clark, were standing at Clark. Gordy Williams, who was Air Force General, who was commanding Clark Air Base, became somewhat nervous because Gordy Williams, who was our commander at Clark at the time, became nervous that, first of all, it's a joint base, Filipinos and Americans. He was concerned that some of the Filipino officers were muttering, why did they have to have the burden of taking Marcos at Clark? There were also reports coming in that some loyalist forces were rolling down the highway from
Tarlock, which is up in the central part of the island. And Gordy quite correctly called me and said, look, I'd really like to get this guy out of here now. So I said, go to it. So he and Teddy Allen, who was the general who had been on the helicopter with Marcos taking him out, spoke to Marcos and said, you know, we want to take you out. We'll take you any place you want to go. And but it's going to be out of the country. So when Marcos got on the airplane, he knew he was going to Guam. He didn't think he was going to Loag or to his hometown up in the north. He knew he was going to Guam. When he got to Guam, he knew he was going to Hawaii. When he got on the plane at Clark to go to Guam, he knew he was going to Guam. He'd agreed to go. I mean, we didn't force him to go. And then he agreed to go to
Hawaii. We would have taken him any place that he wanted to go where people were willing to receiving other than his own home province in the Philippines. And there wasn't a question of are being duplicitous with him. You know, the newly recognized government of the Philippines had simply said, no, you can't take him up to his home province. You stayed on for the rest of that year. One of the things that's curious is when Cory finally went to the States in September, first of all, how was that negotiated? And why wasn't it turned into a state visit? I mean, why was it downgrade? You think that it had to do with a Reagan still not reconciled to? I don't really know. I think there may have been some of that. Although I think the president himself was, I mean, he certainly couldn't have been warmer and more courtly with Mrs. Aquino when she arrived. And the two of them seemed to get along very well.
I think there was a residue in some selected areas of Washington of sort of suspicion of this opposition leader and some perhaps residual affection for the good old days of Ferdinand and Amelda. But it certainly did not affect American policy toward the Aquino government, which I think can certainly those first two years could hardly have been more supportive than it was. But, you know, I also think the role of this situation or maybe disagree with that. And why? Why intervention of Philippines and not some other intervention in the sense of? Well, I think intervention in the sense of expressing our beliefs and in effect committing ourselves to an outcome that would be accepted by the majority of the Filipino people. I don't necessarily consider that intervention in kind of the classic
form. I think obviously the Philippines was different. First of all, there was the long standing historical relationship. Rightly or wrongly Americans believed, still believe in some ways, that what happens in the Philippines matters to them, not just in terms of the bases or trade, but matters to them in terms of our own kind of national image of ourselves. We were in that country. We tried to create democratic institutions, some things we did well, some things we did less will. There are many parts of the history that, you know, I don't think Americans should be all that proud of quite frankly. But on the whole, I think our overall record was not all that bad. And including the fact that, of course, we left voluntarily. They didn't have to go through a revolution to get us out. But that created a whole complex of attitudes out there, a duality on the part of the Filipinos, who on the one hand were suspicious that the United
States was somehow going to act only in its own interest. But at the same time, those same Filipinos, many of them at least, believed that in the end they could count on the United States to do the right thing. So I think that we were measuring ourselves against our own kind of image of ourselves to a degree. And those are circumstances which in some manner at least are unique to the Philippines. But I think that in the end, I would argue that what we did in the Philippines, we did in our own enlightened national self-interest, that it is a safer world for the United States to have a government in the Philippines, which is basically democratically inclined, that our long-term interests there can best be assured by identifying ourselves with sort of the popular aspirations of Filipinos in a non-revolutionary manner. Now, I think that same sort of set of principles can guide American foreign policy in a lot of
other places. Provided, of course, that you can stitch together that same consensus in this country that we had in the Philippines as to what we were doing, what the threats to our interests were. And what sort of outcome we wanted to see evolve. But I'm not sure I would categorize it as intervention, not in an historical sense. Well, Cory is a nationalist in her own way. And some ways a healthier nationalist than Marcos was. I think she has a sense of attachment to the United States. She spent a lot of her life in this country, you know. She was here as a young girl, as a student. And then as she was so fond of saying, she spent three happiest years of her marriage here living up near Boston.
So I think that while she had some of the same latent suspicions of the United States that many Filipinos have, I think in large measure, she always kind of thought the United States would do the right thing. So she was not surprised. I think she was gratified, but not surprised.
In Our Image: The United States and the Philippines
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Interview With Ambassador Stephen Bosworth
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Pearson-Glaser Productions
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Pearson-Glaser Productions (Kittery Point, Maine)
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Ambassador Stephen Bosworth discusses his relationship with Ferdinand Marcos and his experience with Marcos' snap election. Bosworth states that Ferdinand Marcos was a self-controlled man who overestimated the capabilities of the United States as a force on the Philippines and underestimated the decline of his reputation. Regarding the snap election, Bosworth understood that Corazon Aquino was the only opposition to consolidate the candidates interested in winning against Marcos. Bosworth recalls Aquino being upset over Ronald Reagan's comment that the snap election featured electoral fraud on both sides, which also incensed Bosworth, as he believed that fraud only occurred within the Marcos government.
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Politics and Government
Ronald Reagan; Paul Laxalt; Ferdinand Marcos
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Interviewee: Bosworth, Stephen
Interviewer: Karnow, Stanley
Producing Organization: Pearson-Glaser Productions
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Pearson-Glaser Productions
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Format: Betamax
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Chicago: “In Our Image: The United States and the Philippines; Interview With Ambassador Stephen Bosworth,” Pearson-Glaser Productions, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed June 21, 2024,
MLA: “In Our Image: The United States and the Philippines; Interview With Ambassador Stephen Bosworth.” Pearson-Glaser Productions, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. June 21, 2024. <>.
APA: In Our Image: The United States and the Philippines; Interview With Ambassador Stephen Bosworth. Boston, MA: Pearson-Glaser Productions, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from