MARCOS PARK, Philippines -- Presidential candidate Corazon Aquino drove deep into President Ferdinand Marcos' political stronghold Thursday, appealing for support and denying charges that her victory would lead to a communist takeover.
Aquino and running mate Salvador Laurel, driving across winding Marcos Highway en route to the mountain city of Baguio, stopped at Marcos Park and posed for photographers before a 30-foot-tall concrete bust of Marcos that straddles the mountainside and is visible for miles.
'I'll leave it to the Filipino people to decide what to do with it,' the 52-year-old Aquino said of the bust on her first swing through provinces regarded as Marcos territory.
A mile-long motorcade awaited Aquino's arrival on the outskirts of Baguio to escort the opposition team for the Feb. 7 elections into the resort city, where Marcos has a summer residence.
At a news conference, Aquino denied charges leveled by Marcos that her election would lead to a takeover by communists who are staging a growing insurgency.
'I understand it was Mrs. (Imelda) Marcos who went to Russia to talk with the Russians. I have not even talked to any Russian at this point.
'I think I would be the last person in the world to be a communist,' said Aquino, widow of assassinated opposition leader Benigno Aquino. Marcos' wife, Imelda, recently made a trip to Moscow.
Aquino said the communists would be 'very welcome' in a government she headed but they must first renounce all forms of violence.
'I believe in a pluralistic society and if they want to be part of the electoral process, they can compete in a free market,' she said.
She said she would announce her 'minimum platform of government' Friday.
At darkness, more than 5,000 people filled Malcolm Square in downtown Baguio. Chants of 'Cory, Cory' and confetti filled the evening air.
The 68-year-old Marcos, who called the Feb. 7 elections 16 months ahead of schedule to settle doubts about the popularity of his government, has vowed to hold a clean and honest balloting. But Aquino campaign officials fear he will cheat to remain in power.
After visiting the north and urging voters to switch their traditional Marcos loyalties, Aquino saidThursday she was convinced she would win. 'We just have to concentrate in the safeguarding of the ballots,' she said.
Aquino had resumed her campaign after a New Year's break, flying to the northern coastal town Vigan, #apital of Ilocos Sur province, where some 300 supporters met her.
Aquino got a more enthusiastic response in the coastal town of Narvacan, where some 3,000 residents jammed a plaza to hear her say, 'There is no longer a solid north. I can tell this to the people in Manila.'
She then flew to La Union province and spoke before some 2,000 in a square in the provincial capital of San Fernando.