SAN FRANCISCO -- A longtime political opponent of Philippine president Ferdinand Marcos plans to return to his country where he faces a death sentence rather than remain a political exile in the United States.
Opposition leader Benigno S. Aquino Jr. said Monday he will try to return to the Philippines even though the Marcos regime refused to issue travel documents to him.
The Marcos government claims it has uncovered an assassination plot against Aquino, 50, and wants him to remain out of the country for his own good.
In San Francisco to consult with other exile opponents of the Marcos government, Aquino said he was sticking with his intention to return to the Philippines and plans to arrive in Manila on schedule on Aug. 7.
Aquino said in an interview with UPI that Marcos had said the opposition should be given every chance at the polls and 'it is precisely to help strengthen the opposition that I would like to return home as soon as possible.'
He said he did not plan to run for office. He said he was aware that his return might result in a return to his prison cell.
He said he was sending Marcos a politely worded telegram thanking him for his 'concern for my safety' but asking the Philippine ruler to 'reconsider' and let him back in the country.
Aquino said he knew his return to his homeland, where he was considered a likely presidential candidate before Marcos declared martial law in 1972, would present political problems for Marcos. But he said he would try by every legal means he could to fly to Manila and cited United Nations declarations assuring citizens the freedom of mobility to leave and return to their countries as basic human rights.
Aquino entered the United States in 1980 when he was allowed by Marcos to go free from seven years and seven months of imprisonment to undergo heart surgery. Afterward, he remained in the country with university fellowships at Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
He had been jailed along with some 50,000 Filipinos detained under Marcos's martial law edicts and was convicted by a military tribunal of murdering a political rival some years earlier. Aquino denied the charges, dismissing them as another of Marcos's actions under one-man rule to neutralize opponents by placing them behind bars.
Aquino said he was encouraged by reports from Manila that Marcos had called for 'fair and sporting' elections in May next year. He said the regime should allow him to return to prove its claims of fairness toward its non-violent opposition.