The chairman of a key congressional subcommittee that has investigated former Philippine President Ferdinand E. Marcos on Friday hailed the disclosure of the exiled leader’s reputed personal diary and said it could prompt new federal inquiries into Marcos’ relations with the United States.
Rep. Stephen J. Solarz (D-N.Y.) said the voluminous handwritten diary, portions of which were obtained by The Times, “could have relevance” to a number of investigations, either pending or under consideration.
At the same time, Philippine officials said they hope the documents will help dispel any sympathy for Marcos in the White House, where the Reagan Administration is weighing whether to block a pending multimillion-dollar fraud indictment in New York.
In Thursday’s editions, The Times disclosed the existence of what is believed to be an extensive Marcos diary, which the Philippine leader began to keep in 1970. It was discovered in the presidential palace months after he fled Manila in February, 1986.
More Than 2,000 Pages
In the more than 2,000 pages obtained by the newspaper through Philippine sources, The Times reported, Marcos’ described his ambitions to become a dictator more than two years before seizing control of the country by declaring martial law. He also allegedly wrote about his plan to foster violence against his own administration to justify repressive actions against political opponents and media critics.
“This story has to be the final nail--how could anyone think of protecting him (from indictment) now?” Philippine Consul General Tomas Gomez III said Friday in Honolulu.
Recently, sources confirmed that the State Department is pressing federal prosecutors to give Marcos a chance to negotiate a plea bargain before any indictment is issued for alleged fraud in connection with reportedly diverted assets. Such action would spare President Reagan from having to make a decision on Marcos, who was given refuge in Hawaii after he was forced from office two years ago.
Solarz, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee’s subcommittee on Asian and Pacific affairs, said he is eager to learn the full contents of the diary. “I don’t know enough about what’s in it yet, but you can be sure we’re going to be avid readers,” he said.
Solarz’s panel has probed allegations that Marcos wasted or misappropriated millions of dollars in U.S. foreign aid while president of the Philippines.
The congressman said he was not surprised by the harsh image of Marcos emerging from the pages of his own diary.
Marcos and his spokesman could not be reached Friday, but Gemmo Trinidad, an aide to the former president, told The Times earlier in the week that Marcos considered publication of the documents “an invasion of privacy.”
The papers, which provide the most intimate look to date at the Philippine leader, disclose that at the same time that Marcos was casting himself as a defender of democracy and a friend of the United States, he was planning to assume dictatorial control of the nation and was misleading the United States about his motives and actions.
His plans, according to the documents, included one to “liquidate” Communists and silence all other critics. During this time in the 1970s, Marcos was strongly backed by the U.S. government.
A House Republican staff member said the revelations in the diaries will complicate any effort to win leniency for Marcos. “Anything like that would increase problems for Marcos and raise suspicions,” the aide said.
U.S. officials were “aware of that story but haven’t had a chance to read it. We can’t comment until we have a chance to study it,” a State Department official said.
Richard J. Kessler, expert on U.S.-Philippine relations at the American University in Washington, said Marcos’ current status in exile in the United States “seems to be affected by this issue of how you treat dictators and whether it will open up all sorts of wounds and accusations.”
“I have seen other Marcos diaries that dated to 1978. They weren’t handwritten, though, they were typed. It was sort of self-justification. I got the impression that he was trying to rewrite history,” he said.
Image Is ‘Very Bad’
Larry A. Niksche, involved in Asian affairs research at the Congressional Research Service, said that notwithstanding the contents of the diaries, Marcos’ “image in the United States with the government and the public generally is already very bad.”
“That negative image would be reinforced by those disclosures, but his image has reached a point where it cannot get much worse,” he added. “My sense is that if some kind of poll were taken, it would show that the great majority of Americans who have any knowledge of him have a very negative attitude toward him. This is certainly the view in Congress, and it is also the view of officials of the executive department that I have talked to about Marcos.”
Times staff writer Norman Kempster contributed to this story.