WASHINGTON -- Ferdinand Marcos bargained for U.S. support to stay in power in a coalition government in the Philippines until finally agreeing to resign, Sen. Paul Laxalt, R-Nev., said Tuesday.
Laxalt said Marcos first telephoned him on Monday, saying he was willing to say on in some role in a coalition government with Corazon Aquino. After consulting with President Reagan Monday afternoon, Laxalt said he telephoned Marcos at his heavily guarded palace in Manila and advised him to resign.
'He asked whether or not the president wanted him to step down,' Laxalt told a news conference.
'I indicated that the president wasn't in the position to make that kind of representation, certainly not that kind of demand, but that he had hoped there would be a peaceful transition.
'Then he asked me the gut question. He said, 'Senator, what do you think? Should I step down?'
'I said Mr. President, I'm not bound by diplomatic restraints,' Laxalt said.
'I'm talking to you only for myself. But I think you should cut and cut cleanly, I think the time has come.
'There was the longest pause on the other end of that phone, it seemed to last minutes,' Laxalt said. 'I said, 'Mr. President, are you still there?'
'Finally he came on. 'Yes, I'm here, senator. I'm so very, very disappointed.''
Laxalt, a close friend of Reagan, first visited Marcos last October to judge the crumbling political conditions in a fact-finding mission for the president.
He told Marcos there was a widespread belief in Washington that he lacked political support. Shortly afterwards, Marcos called the 'snap' presidential election that was marked by fraud and violence and ultimately lead to his downfall.
On Monday, Laxalt and others were briefed at the Capitol by Shultz and special Philippine envoy Philip Habib.
It was about 3 a.m. in the Philippines and Marcos, in an unexpected telephone call, found Laxalt.
Marcos said he wanted to stay in the Philippines and work with the new Aquino government, Laxalt said.
'I told him in my view this was impractical,' Laxalt said.
Marcos wanted personal assurances from Laxalt that Reagan's earlier statement of calling for a peaceful transition of power in Manila was correct and that Washington would work to see that he and his associates would be safe against revenge, Laxalt said.
Marcos had been up all night and was tired. He felt the palace could be stormed, Laxalt said.
After the call, Laxalt and Shultz went to the White House to see Reagan.
Reagan said it would be 'undignified' for Marcos to stay on in a power sharing role, 'as a consultant, so to speak,' Laxalt said. 'He (Reagan) indicated I should negotiate his peace and safety for his family and associates, that he would be welcome to come here.'
Laxalt then called Marcos to deliver the assurances of asylum, although the embattled president said he wanted to stay in the Philippines.
Laxalt then delivered his blunt message that Marcos should resign without further violence.
'I indicated if he saw fit to leave, the security and safety aspects could be negotiated and as far as he was concerned I would preserve his confidence until he authorized me to advise our people to establish contact with Aquino,' Laxalt said.
'He said he would consider this and he would call me back. He did not.'