Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos attacked critics in the United States today, accusing them of fabricating evidence about his "hidden wealth" abroad and warning that lawsuits could be filed against his detractors.
Marcos blamed his current difficulties with Washington on "some bureaucrats and some members of Congress."
He said President Reagan had been misinformed about the situation in the Philippines by intelligence reports.
The Philippine leader also dismissed charges by political opponents that his ruling party is preparing to cheat massively in a Feb. 7 presidential election. He said in an interview that the allegations reflected the opposition's "anticipation of a political debacle," and he predicted a landslide victory.
Marcos also expressed confidence in his reelection during an address today to a Rotary Club luncheon in which he pledged a thorough reorganization of the government, a review of the constitution and controversial presidential decree-making powers and examination of a range of economic policies immediately after Feb. 7.
He moved to counter criticism about inadequate safeguards for a fair election by announcing the appointment of two more members of the Commission on Elections, filling the remaining vacancies on the nine-member board that oversees Philippine balloting.
Appointed to the panel were Jaime Layosa, the career executive director of the commission, and Ruben Agpalo, a former assistant solicitor general.
Marcos, 68 and visibly ailing, is seeking reelection to a six-year term after 20 years in power. He is waging a no-holds-barred campaign against the Philippines' first woman presidential contender, Corazon Aquino, 53, the popular widow of assassinated opposition leader Benigno Aquino Jr.
In an interview with Washington Post Co. Chairman Katharine Graham and journalists of The Washington Post and Newsweek, Marcos was asked if the United States is intervening to damage his chances for victory, as senior government officials here have charged. He attributed such actions to "some of the bureaucrats who are sympathizers of the opposition or are communist-inclined."
"I don't think there is any problem with the Reagan administration," Marcos said. "The problem is with some bureaucrats and some members of Congress."
While Marcos did not identify these officials, one of his campaign managers, Labor Minister Blas Ople, singled out a band of "hawks" in Washington who, he charged, are intent on "destabilizing" Marcos. Ople said they included Michael H. Armacost, the undersecretary of state for political affairs, Richard L. Armitage, the assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs, Paul D. Wolfowitz, the assistant secretary of state for East Asia and Pacific affairs, Rep. Stephen J. Solarz (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Richard G. Lugar (R-Ind.).
In an interview yesterday Ople said President Reagan retained his "essentially sound, pristine political instincts" about Marcos, but was being overwhelmed by dangerous and simplistic advice about the Philippine situation from the "lower echelons" of the U.S. bureaucracy.
Marcos indicated that he shared this view of different attitudes toward him within the Reagan administration, and he played down Reagan's expression of concern about developments in the Philippines in a handwritten letter delivered last October by Sen. Paul Laxalt (R-Nev.), a personal friend and emissary of Reagan.
Marcos disclosed that he had rebutted point by point the concerns expressed about his handling of a growing Communist insurgency and a flagging economy.
Marcos said that "the best information that he [Reagan] could get came from some intelligence sources, which were misinformed."
Asked about a U.S. congressional investigation of charges that he, his wife, family and presidential friends have invested vast "hidden wealth" in the United States, Marcos denied any such holdings and challenged the investigating committee headed by Solarz to produce proof.
"I want them to show us the evidence," Marcos said. "I think they are just guessing and that their evidence is hearsay."
He said he suspected that whatever evidence was presented would have been "falsified" and suggested that "there is fabrication going on" to produce damaging documents here and in the United States. He said that "I am going to seek the intervention of the courts," but he did not elaborate.
Solarz has said he has no doubt that Marcos and his wife, Imelda, have invested hundreds of millions of dollars in real estate in the United States, mainly in New York City. In sworn testimony before the House subcommittee investigating the charges, a former official of the real estate firm that manages four Manhattan properties believed to be linked to the Marcoses said yesterday that he had been told by the firm's executives that the properties, now worth about $350 million, were a gift from Marcos to his wife.
Marcos said that when the hidden wealth charges came up here last year in impeachment proceedings filed in parliament by the political opposition, he had promised his domestic foes that "if you can prove this, I will get out." The resolution was quashed immediately in parliament, which is controlled by Marcos' ruling New Society Movement party with two-thirds of the seats.
Asked whether he still stood by his pledge to resign if proof of hidden wealth were produced, Marcos answered, "No, because they are fabricating evidence, I know."
Marcos said he gives "substantial amounts" of money to the "Marcos Scientific Research Foundation." He described some of his contributions as "reaching several million," but did not elaborate. His official presidential salary amounts to about $5,000 a year.
"When I became president I turned in all my property except some legacies for my children and my wife to keep them alive if I ever go," Marcos said. "This is a blind trust, not a 20-20 blind trust but a real blind trust," he said, referring to the research foundation. "I don't have anything to do with it." He said the foundation specialized "in the biogenetic field," studying such matters as "problems in the corn industry" and "the nitrogen-fixing capability of the legume, which we are trying to transfer to rice and corn."
Marcos reacted curtly to a question about press reports in the United States challenging his longstanding claims to have been a heroic guerrilla leader against the Japanese during World War II.
"I don't want to talk about my war record because our legal panel is studying the possibility of filing all kinds of cases," he said. "We have obtained the services of counsel." He did not specify the targets of any lawsuits.
War veterans who are described as having served with Marcos already have filed suits against at least two Manila newspapers that reprinted articles from The New York Times and The Washington Post about Marcos' war record.
Marcos previously has charged that the stories were part of a smear campaign orchestrated by his political opponents and U.S. detractors.
On another issue that has tended to sour relations with Washington somewhat, Marcos indicated that he has no immediate plans to replace Gen. Fabian Ver, a trusted confidant and cousin, as armed forces chief of staff despite U.S. pressure to do so.
U.S. officials regard Ver, 66, as a major obstacle to the sweeping military reforms that Washington believes are necessary to help counter the spreading Communist insurgency.
"I don't know why it should be an issue between the two governments," Marcos said. "The question of who is chief of staff of the armed forces is a matter that is internal."
He said the officer long touted as Washington's choice for the post, Lt. Gen. Fidel Ramos, could not replace Ver at present because he has been charged with "administrative negligence" in connection with the killing last year of 21 protesters by paramilitary forces on the central Philippine island of Negros.
In today's interview, Marcos rejected accusations by the slain opposition leader's widow that her presidential campaign was the target of massive electoral fraud. "This to me is a preparation for the usual sour grapes," Marcos said. "In the Philippines, nobody ever concedes" when defeated in an election, he said.
Asked if he would concede if he lost to Corazon Aquino, Marcos said, "if the elections are fair." He accused the opposition of using Communist insurgents of the New People's Army to "frighten people" who support him. He said this matter would be submitted to the Commission on Elections.
However, after his Rotary Club speech, which got a subdued reception compared to the thunderous ovations at the same forum for Aquino a week before, Marcos appeared to pledge a graceful exit if he is upset in next week's election.
"First of all, the idea of losing has never entered my mind," he said in answer to a question from the audience. He added, "I can assure you that whatever happens, I'll perform my duty as president of the Republic of the Philippines, which includes a peaceful and successful transition."