In one of the more contested defenses of his controversial World War II record, President Ferdinand Marcos yesterday cited the "memoirs" of Japanese Emperor Hirohito as proof that he was a heroic guerrilla leader.

Marcos said 11 pages of the "memoirs" were devoted to him and the alleged exploits of his "Ang Mga Maharlika" (the Nobles) anti-Japanese guerrilla unit, a group that U.S. Army records say was a fraud.

Maharlika "can be found even in the memoirs of the emperor of Japan," Marcos told a meeting of the joint Philippine and foreign chambers of commerce in defending the existence of the unit as an authentic guerrilla force. "The emperor called me 'impulsive' and 'naughty,' " Marcos said, adding that this amounted to "an accolade."

Other accounts published by the official Philippine News Agency have referred to Hirohito's "diaries" as confirming the exploits of Maharlika and the young Marcos.

The trouble is, say Japanese government officials and scholars, no imperial diaries have ever been published. Nor has the emperor published his memoirs. Nor are any other documents known to exist that could be mistaken for his memoirs or diaries.

What the emperor has published, scholars say, are five books on botany and marine biology, but none of them mentions Marcos or his guerrillas.

The latest controversy over Marcos' war record arose from disclosures in the United States that, according to Army records, his postwar application for recognition of Maharlika had been turned down.

Several investigators found that the unit did not function as a fighting force against the Japanese and that, although Marcos served with U.S. forces during the war, his claims to have been a heroic guerrilla leader were contradictory, fraudulent and preposterous.

Since the disclosures, Marcos has gone to great lengths to restore the luster to his now tarnished war medals. Government-controlled newspapers print testimonials by obliging U.S. and Philippine veterans daily, and Marcos has claimed that documents in the U.S. Army archives have been "falsified."

The canard about the Japanese imperial writings appears to have started with one such government attempt to defend Marcos' war record by quoting a former member of the occupation military police here. A Japanese ex-corporal, Fumio Fujihara, 66, was quoted by the Philippine News Agency last month as saying Marcos' exploits drew the attention of Hirohito and caused a major campaign against Maharlika.

"To prove his claim, Fujihara showed a wartime diary of Japanese Emperor Hirohito, who recorded the Japanese campaign against the Ang Mga Maharlika led by Marcos," the agency reported. However, Fujihara, now head of a trading company in Manila, told the Japanese news agency Kyodo the next day that he had been "misunderstood." He said the book in question had been written about the war by a Japanese journalist 15 years ago and that no orders regarding Maharlika ever came from Tokyo.

Fujihara told Kyodo that Maharlika came to Japanese attention during the war when 1,000 copies of an anti-Japanese leaflet were circulated and he was assigned to investigate. He said he arrested five alleged Maharlika members, who were released six months later. He told the agency that as far as he knew, the unit was not involved in combat but in propaganda efforts. He said he did not hear of Marcos during the war.