Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos' former executive secretary, once a close friend and political associate, has fled the country by small boat and applied for political asylum in the United States.

Ernesto M. Maceda, 43, said yesterday that he fled "to escape persecution" after a political break with Marcos, and that he hopes to contribute to public pressure in the United States against the "repressive dictatorship" by writing a book and joining the Movement for a Free Philippines, an exile group.

It was necessary to escape from Manila by sailboat, motorboat and a cargo ship to Hong Kong, he said, because he and other political opponents of Marcos have been placed on a blacklist than makes them ineligible for exit permits.


Maceda is the third prominent Fillipino to seek political asylum in the United States recently, a fact that is causing something of a stir in the relations between the two countries.

The others are Charito Planas, who was jailed by the Philippine government and who led an attack against first lady Imelda Marcos in recent National Assembly elections, and Joselito C. Azurin, acting chief of the Philippine Embassy in Australia. Maceda said additional opposition leaders are likely to flee and seek refuge here.

Under U.S. immigration procedures, a person seeking political asylum must establish a well-founded fear of being persecuted if he or she returned home.

A spokesman for the Philippine Embassy said yesterday "we don't know why" Maceda decided to flee and maintained that "he certainly can go back to the Philippines anytime he desires."

Maceda is from Marcos's home area in the northern part of the Philippines, and through family connections Marcos, then a senator, was the sponsor of Maceda's wedding. Later the younger man worked in the Marcos campaigns for president, and for eight months in 1969-70 was his presidential executive secretary.

After leaving the presidential palace, Maceda was secretary of commerce and industry before being elected a senator on the Marcos party ticket in 1971. Maceda said his decision to break with his former sponsor dated from Marcos' imposition of martial law late in 1972. In April this year Maceda ran unsuccessfully on an opposition ticket in the Assembly elections. Following the balloting, which the losers maintain was rigged, Maceda was charged with election law violations.

As a public official, stockbroker and director of several corporations, Maceda said he became aware of extensive corruption. He charged that the Marcos family and friends stand to gain millions of dollars through acquisition, at par value, of large blocks of stock of companies that have struck oil off the Philippine coast.