Philippine investigators trailing the wealth of deposed president Ferdinand Marcos have gained access to an "avalanche" of information, some through highly unconventional channels, tying the Marcos family to properties around the world, according to Philippine exiles deputized to aid the government of President Corazon Aquino.
One key document came from an employe of the Manila Hotel, who said her daughter rescued it from a pile of burning papers outside the Marcoses' Malacanang Palace.
A congressman told of crawling around the floors of Malacanang, poring over documents that had been strewn about in the melee following the Marcoses' evacuation. He said valuable papers literally were falling out of books.
"It never dawned on me when we began this investigation that three months later I'd be on my knees rummaging through piles of paper in the Malacanang," said Rep. Stephen J. Solarz (D-N.Y.), whose Foreign Affairs subcommittee is probing Marcos' alleged "hidden wealth" in New York and elsewhere.
Some investigators rate the evidence emerging in Manila as more valuable than hundreds of pages of documents brought to Hawaii by Marcos and his entourage, which now are the target of competing claims from the Marcoses, the Aquino government, Solarz and U.S. government agencies.
In the process of sorting through the new evidence, officials have discovered graphic evidence of the Marcos family's storied, lavish life style.
Television network crews were led to videotapes of family events such as an elegant birthday party for Marcos' daughter on the presidential yacht, and broadcast them to a tantalized public.
Solarz said that when he toured Imelda Marcos' palace quarters, he saw "3,000 panties," hundreds of dresses and thousands of pairs of shoes.
"The private quarters made Versailles look like an Appalachian hovel," Solarz said, adding that Imelda Marcos had "a double king-sized bed in a room the size of a football field." He said the room containing her clothes and shoes was three times the size of his congressional office.
The new Philippine government is planning to turn Malacanang into a museum on the excesses of the Marcos era.
Despite the shock value of these details, the Aquino government has placed priority on documenting for U.S. courts what it alleges to be a hidden, multibillion-dollar empire of offshore holding companies and downtown skyscrapers amassed by Marcos at the expense of the Filipino people.
Jovita R. Salonga, head of an Aquino government commission tracking Marcos' wealth, is to arrive in the United States this week with documents to be introduced as evidence in those cases, according to two of his aides here.
Solarz described one of the documents as a "smoking gun," tying Marcos directly to three valuable New York properties.
Salonga also will bring papers found by government investigators last Friday at the office of Marcos' daughter, Imee, revealing her father's hidden stake in properties owned by his close associates, according his U.S. aides.
Steve Psinakis, a San Francisco consultant to Salonga, said the papers show that Roland C. Gapud, a Manila banker, and Jose Campos, a Manila businessman, acted as Marcos "nominees" in acquiring property in the United States.
"It looks as if she was entrusted by the family to keep track of all the property interest, and to keep the records of who were the Marcos nominees," said Bonifacio Gillego, a U.S. representative of the Philippine commission tracking Marcos' worldwide holdings. "There's an avalanche of information there."
More information is coming from dissident Filipino bankers, who call themselves a "financial PLO" with a network from Manila to Manhattan and who now are spilling out details of financial deals in which Marcos allegedly held hidden stakes.
"There's so much coming out we almost wish it would stop," said Severina Rivera, one of the attorneys working with Salonga in the United States. She said Salonga has managed to catalogue only 15 percent of the information received so far.
That does not include the documents in Hawaii, which are in the custody of the U.S. Customs Service and are said to comprise a "paper trail" of how Marcos and his associates amassed their wealth