Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos lashed out against the Law School Wednesday night for offering a visiting scholarship to Benigno Aquino Jr., Philippine opposition leader and a current political prisoner in Manila.
Marcos called the Law School offer one of several alleged U.S. interferences in his martial-law administration. The president first denied Aquino a Law School scholarship in 1975, by ignoring Harvard's offer completely.
Marcos voiced his criticisms in a nationwide telecast in the Philippines at the end of a political campaign. Philippine elections, which took place yesterday, are the first held since Marcos declared martial law in September 1972.
"We are not disturbed at all about Marcos' criticism," President Bok said yesterday, adding, "The University often receives such accusations."
"Marcos is trying to prove to his people that he stands up for nationalism against American colonialism," Jerome A. Cohen, associate dean of the Law School, said yesterday. Although he is making negative statements about the U.S. in his own country, Marcos is worried about losing American support, Cohen said.
Since an acceptance of the scholarship would necessitate Aquino's release from prison, the Law School's offer in effect makes a statement against the Philippino tribunal court indictment of Aquino for alleged subversion, murder and illegal arms possession.
"Though it is unusual to invite someone here who is in prison, the University has no policy or pattern concerning such offers," Bok said.
"Aquino would be an ideal speaker on human rights, the major concern of our East Asian Legal Studies Program," Cohen, the director of the program, said.
Aquino's notoriety as Marcos' major political opponent contributes to his unique qualification for the position, Cohen added.
The East Asian Legal Studies Program has previously invited South Korean political prisoner Kim Dae Jung and supporters of the Philippine and South Korean governments to speak at Harvard.
Several Congressmen have expressed concern over Aquino's case, a U.S. State Department spokesman said yesterday.
Sen. Alan Cranston (D-Calif.) wrote to President Marcos on December 2, 1977, calling for political exile for Aquino, Christine Cohagan, legislative assistant to Cranston, said yesterday.
"Aquino himself might have two views concerning the Law School offer" if he were free, the State Department spokesman said. "It might be nice for him to get out of the Philippines, but by accepting Harvard's offer he could lose his political stature and lose contact with the Philippine people."
"Marcos might release Aquino to remove his opposing political influence from the Philippines, but Marcos also fears that once at Harvard, Aquino could criticize the Philippine government," the State Department spokesman said.