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April 18, 1986 - Image 58

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1986-04-18

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.


58 Friday, April 18, 1986



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Jewish Congressman
Was Key In Philippines

Democratic Representative

Stephen Solarz of New York
was clearly ahead of the curve in
Washington in ' understanding
the nature of the events un-
folding in the Philippines.
A consistent critic of former
President Ferdinand Marcos, he
successfully led the fight in
American governmental and
public opinion in support of the
new President, Corazon Aquino.
The Reagan Administration
often viewed him as a thorn. But
that has now changed.
Solarz's close association with
Aquino and her running mate,
Salvador Laurel, is now seen by
U.S. officials as clearly signifi-
cant in helping to ensure a con-
tinued pro-American attitude in
the Philippines.
The Congressman, Chairman
of the House Foreign Affairs
Subcommittee on the Far East,
was among the first in Wash-
ington to understand that Mar-
cos's days were numbered.
Benigno Aquino, the longtime
opposition leader and husband
of the new president, had testi-
fied before Solarz's panel some
six weeks before his ill -fated
return to Manila. It was during
that testimony, in fact, that
Aquino, still in political exile in
the United States, had an-
nounced publicly for the first
time•that he was planning to go
back home. He was, of course,,
eventually murdered as he
walked off the plane.
"So my interest in the Philip-
pines goes back really for quite
some time now," Solarz said in
an interview. "At the end of the
hearing, we spoke. I had gotten
to know him in the course of his
exile in the United States. He
was planning to go back at the
beginning of August. • I was
planning on being in the Philip-
pines in the middle of August.
He asked me to make sure to
ask to meet with him when I ar-
rived in Manila. He thought he
would be under house arrest, at
best, or in prison, at worst. He
felt it was important for Marcos
to know that his welfare and
well-being were the source of
concern to the U.S. Congress. I
had planned to do so.
"As fate would have it, he put
off his trip for two weeks. And
so I left the Philippines, after
spending several days there, the
day before he returned (on Aug.
21, 1985). It was clear to me at
that time that Marcos's support
was already slipping and the
country was in deep trouble.
They were on a slide toward
• Solarz, who speakes on this
subject with passion and auth-
ority, noted that when Aquino
finally returned, only to be
assassinated, the situation got
even worse. "I returned to the
Philippines from Bangkok at
the request of his family and his
associates in the opposition to
pay my respects and to sym-
lplize American concern over

what had happened. It was an
incredibly moving experience for
Laurel, who is today the new
Vice President, had met Solarz
at the airport and took him to
Aquino's home. "There were
thousands of Filipinos lined up
outside, snaking around the
blocks, waiting to pay their re-
spects," Solarz recalled. "By the
next day, when they moved his
body to a neighborhood church,
over a hundred thousand Fili-
pinos had passed through his
At the time, Solarz also met
with Aquino's mother — "a
remarkable women, about 75 at
the time, but looking about 60,
beautiful, eloquent and elegant.
It was late in the afternoon. We

They were on a slide
toward disaster."

went into a small room together,
with little light. The skylight
was fading. No air conditioning.
People were fanning the air. She
told me how she had pleaded
with her son not to return, and
how he had told her that he
would rather die a meaningful
death than lead a meaningless
life, and how, if Marcos wanted
to kill him, he could just as
easily kill him in Boston as in
Manila. If he was going to die,
he would rather die on the soil
of his own country, than on the
territory of a foreign land."
Since then, Solarz made it his
business to get involved more
actively in the entire issue of
human rights and democracy in
the Philippines. "I really re-
solved at that time to do every-
thing I could to facilitate the
\ restoration of democracy and
the achievement of the ideals for
which Aquino had sacrificed his
The Congressman said that
one of the most important im-
plications of this entire series of
remarkable events leading up to
Marcos's ouster was that "it
demonstrated that Aquino did
not die in vain, and that the
cause for which he sacrificed his
life has now been realized as a
result of the courageous cam-
paign of his wife who embodied
and expressed the hopes and the
aspirations of the Filipino peo-
ple for democracy."
Thus, already a few years ago,
Solarz understood that Marcos
was in deep trouble. Even befo
the Feb. 7 .election, Solarz sens
ed that Marcos had "clearly los
the confidence of the people." A
that time, of course, the Reag
Administration was still unde
the impression that Marcos ha
considerably more residual su
port than turned out to be th
case. But Solarz agieed tha
Marcos,. on the eve of the elec

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