Philippine President Ferdinand E. Marcos responded to concerns expressed by presidential emissary Sen. Paul Laxalt (R-Nev.) last week by saying at one point he had an "image problem" in the United States and perhaps should hire a public relations firm, sources said yesterday.
But Laxalt said Marcos "is now fully aware" of Reagan's concerns about the stability of his regime.
The sources also said Marcos told Laxalt during meetings last week that he had given his "oath of honor" to reinstate armed forces chief Gen. Fabian Ver, who is on trial along with 25 other men in connection with the murder of opposition leader Benigno Aquino.
When Laxalt protested that such a reinstatement would be unacceptable, sources said, Marcos was insistent, but later discussed a temporary or symbolic reinstatement.
Laxalt, who met with Marcos for four hours last Wednesday and Thursday in Manila, reported to Reagan yesterday. Afterward, he issued a statement saying Marcos was "very open-minded" about U.S. concerns and "indicated some positive steps" would be taken as a result.
Administration officials have said Laxalt was carrying a blunt message from Reagan about concerns that the Marcos government could be overwhelmed by political and economic problems and a growing communist insurgency.
Laxalt said yesterday the meetings with Marcos were "conducted in a friendly and direct way," that "no hostile messages were delivered on my part," and there was "no rejection of our views" by Marcos. He added that Marcos told him the military is now being decentralized and that Marcos would "welcome" observers in the 1986 local elections and 1987 national elections.
"In other words we now have a baseline from which future reforms can be assessed," Laxalt said. The senator added that by making Marcos aware of Reagan's concerns, the "principal purpose of my mission was fulfilled."
A senior administration official familiar with the Laxalt mission said that the senator was not rebuffed by Marcos, but "I don't think a lot of progress was made either."
The Laxalt meeting was significant because of U.S. interests in the Philippines, including the two largest military bases outside the United States -- Clark Air Base and Subic Bay Naval Base, leased by the United States from the Philippines through 1991. The Defense Department has proposed spending an additional $1.3 billion on the installations, a plan that has been criticized in Congress because of U.S. intelligence estimates that communists might eventually topple the Marcos government.
Marcos has challenged estimates of the insurgency's strength, and sent back with Laxalt a lengthy document giving his views.
Sources said yesterday that an official account of the meeting shows that, at one point, Marcos viewed his problems in part as public relations in Washington. According to this account, Marcos suggested his Washington ambassador was not doing a good enough job and maybe he should hire a public relations firm here.
The account also disclosed details of the discussion between Laxalt and Marcos on Gen. Ver, who is accused of covering up the military's alleged role in murdering Aquino and Rolando Galman, who the military said shot Aquino at the Manila airport in August 1983.
Earlier this month, a lawyer for Ver asked the court to acquit the Philippine military chief. The Supreme Court of the Philippines ruled in August that the testimony given by Ver and seven others to an official board of inquiry could not be used against them in their trial. Most of the evidence against Ver came from his testimony, lawyers have said.
The United States has made clear to Manila that reinstatement of Ver would be an obstacle to installing serious military reforms needed to combat the country's communist insurgency.
But Marcos reportedly told Laxalt that he had given his "oath of honor" to reinstate Ver, and persisted when Laxalt protested that it would be a bad idea. Marcos suggested reinstating Ver and then making him an ambasssador after a year. Laxalt responded that such an arrangement would not work, and Marcos then discussed some kind of symbolic reinstatement, sources said.