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Mrs. Marcos’ Logs Show $50,000 Gift to Ex-Gov. Ariyoshi

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Imelda Marcos made a cash payment of $50,000 to then-Gov. George Ariyoshi of Hawaii when she visited Honolulu in 1982, three days after the Democrat announced that he was running for reelection, according to logs of the former Philippine first lady’s travel expenses.

A record of the previously undisclosed cash payment to Ariyoshi was found amid voluminous evidence recently introduced here by federal prosecutors in the fraud and racketeering trial of Mrs. Marcos.

It was unclear from the document whether the $50,000 cash payment was intended to aid the Ariyoshi campaign or was tendered for some other reason. Ariyoshi did not list it among his campaign contributions, which by law were limited to $2,000 from any one source in the primary election.

Although unrelated to any of the criminal charges pending against Mrs. Marcos, the Ariyoshi payment discovered in the Marcos expense logs raises new questions about how the former first lady spent what the U.S. Justice Department asserts were Philippine government funds.

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No explanation for the $50,000 expenditure was listed in the court documents, and Ariyoshi did not respond to numerous requests by The Times for an interview.

In the past Ariyoshi has acknowledged receiving gifts from the Marcoses but has declined to describe the extent or nature of those offerings, calling gift giving “a private act of courtesy” that he would not discuss publicly.

The recently admitted court documents are notebooks in which a private secretary to Mrs. Marcos, identified in testimony as longtime aide Fe Roa Gimenez, maintained a running log of expenses incurred by the Philippine first lady and her entourage during trips abroad. Many of the handwritten entries record payments for art, jewelry and shopping trips that federal prosecutors contend were financed with money looted from the Philippine national treasury.

Prosecutors submitted the expense logs to support charges in the federal indictment that Mrs. Marcos spent great amounts of Philippine public money for non-governmental and other personal expenses. For instance, some of the recorded art and jewelry transactions have been confirmed by other documents and testimony.

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Ariyoshi’s name appears in the log of a July, 1982, trip that Mrs. Marcos made to the Soviet Union, Morocco and the United States.

On a page listing “cash disbursements” for July 20, 1982, is the brief handwritten entry: "$50,000--Given to Gov. Ariyoshi.”

Also on July 20, Ariyoshi’s lieutenant governor, Jean King, announced that she would challenge him for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination. It would be, according to local news accounts, the toughest campaign of Ariyoshi’s political career.

The Marcoses’ possible financial interest in U.S. political campaigns became the object of a federal investigation in 1986, soon after the deposed couple arrived in Honolulu after fleeing a popular revolt that February.

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U.S. customs agents, going through more than 300 boxes and suitcases filled with cash, jewelry and documents, found a financial statement indicating that the Marcoses may have made illegal contributions in excess of $175,000 to 10 U.S. politicians, including then-President Ronald Reagan and former President Jimmy Carter. The document was dated 1982 and purported to recount spending of Philippine military intelligence money in the United States as approved by Fabian C. Ver and Irwin Ver, former leaders of military and security forces under Marcos.

Based in part on discovery of that document, the Federal Election Commission launched an inquiry into whether the Marcoses had secretly funneled intelligence funds into American political campaigns through a California company owned by a Philippine businessman.

The investigation was dropped in 1988 for lack of evidence, over the objection of one commission member who complained that investigative leads had not been thoroughly pursued. How the document came to be among Marcoses’ private papers was never established.

Although contributions from foreign sources are not permitted in federal elections, Hawaii state races were not subject to such restrictions in 1982. The names of contributors who gave more than $100 had to be reported to the Hawaii Campaign Spending Commission, however, and a limit of $2,000 from any single source in both the primary and general gubernatorial campaigns was set.

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State records show that Ariyoshi, who was governor from 1974 to 1986, did not report the $50,000 payment from Mrs. Marcos as a campaign contribution.

The former governor and his wife, Jean Ariyoshi, are longtime friends of the Marcoses, and Mrs. Ariyoshi has been a regular shopping companion of Mrs. Marcos on the former Philippine first lady’s frequent stopovers in Hawaii.

When the Marcos regime fell in 1986 and the Marcoses were forced to go into exile, Ariyoshi invited them to make their new home in Hawaii.

When the Marcoses stepped from an American military aircraft at Hickham Air Force Base in Honolulu, the governor was the highest-ranking American official to meet them, offering a traditional red carpet and Hawaiian lei greeting.

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Soon after the Marcoses arrival, reports surfaced that the Ariyoshis had received unspecified gifts from the Philippine leader over the years. Under pressure from local media, Ariyoshi issued a statement in which he called gift giving by officials “a custom which prevails among people as private citizens or formal representatives.”

“The govern engages in this custom with government officials and other dignitaries, national and international,” the statement continued. “This is done in a variety of settings and is an especially traditional custom in Asia and the Pacific.

“Because the governor regards the bestowing and receiving of gifts a very personal matter, it will remain a private act of courtesy between himself and others.”

Ariyoshi is now an attorney in private practice in Honolulu. A secretary said he was traveling on business in Japan but that she had forwarded The Times’ interview requests to him.

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Honolulu freelance writer Susan Essoyan contributed to this story.


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