Federal judges in Honolulu and New York today temporarily blocked the Reagan administration's plan to give congressional and Philippine investigators copies of documents brought to Hawaii by deposed president Ferdinand Marcos.
The judges' rulings, in response to last-minute court challenges by Marcos' lawyers, could jeopardize release of information that the new Philippine government and congressional investigators have called crucial to unraveling Marcos' financial empire.
U.S. District Judge Harold M. Fong in Hawaii last night issued a temporary restraining order, prohibiting the U.S. Customs Service for at least 10 days from giving Congress or any other "third party" an estimated 1,500 sensitive documents described as containing a road map to the Marcos family's wealth.
Attorneys for two members of the Marcos party maintained that releasing the documents without "a properly issued subpoena" interfered with its property rights "and potentially poses a significant invasion of the plaintiffs' privacy."
Fong agreed, saying the release of the records could "cause irreparable harm to the plaintiffs."
Meanwhile, the Court of International Trade in New York, which hears appeals from Customs rulings, scheduled a hearing on Saturday on Marcos' challenge, barring investigators at least until then from getting copies of the disputed documents.
Government lawyers were confused last night which court proceeding would take precedence. Even if the government wins in the trade court on Saturday, the Hawaii order apparently would still stand for eight days. But lawyers for both sides said the trade court may have "exclusive jurisdiction."
"It seems like we've hit a molasses patch in the road," an administration official said.
Rep. Stephen J. Solarz (D-N.Y.), whose Foreign Affairs subcommittee is seeking the documents in a probe of Marcos' alleged ownership of $350 million of prime real estate in New York, said in Washington last night that he would subpoena the records if the administration plan is foiled by Marcos' court action.
It was unclear whether the court action would hinder Justice Department investigators, who already had obtained copies of documents for two federal grand jury investigations into business dealings by Marcos and his associates, according to administration sources.
Administration sources said a federal grand jury in Pittsburgh is investigating allegations that Marcos received most of an $80 million payment that Westinghouse Electric Corp. paid Marcos' associate, Herminio Disini, for helping the company win a contract for the Philippines' first nuclear power plant.
The alleged payment was reported last week by The New York Times.
A spokesman said Westinghouse has not been told it is being investigated. He added that the allegations had been probed before and the company was not charged with wrongdoing. The company has in the past acknowledged making payments, which it described as commissions, to Disini.
In the other investigation, an Alexandria, Va., grand jury on Wednesday subpoenaed Marcos' former military chief of staff, Gen. Fabian Ver, and Eduardo M. Cojuangco, the so-called "coconut king" of the Philippines.
The two men will be asked to testify about alleged fraud and kickbacks to high-ranking Filipinos for $100 million in military equipment contracts partly financed under the Pentagon's foreign military sales and credits program, government sources said yesterday.
Included in the transactions being probed is a $17 million for microwave cmmunications to a California company known as Amworld, set up in 1981 by Raymond Moreno, a close friend of Ver and Cojuangco, sources said.
In another development yesterday, a White House spokesman denied unsubstantiated allegations by a group of anti-Marcos bankers in Manila that Marcos and his close associates had a plan to buy influence with the Reagan administration through large, hidden campaign contributions and lucrative contracts to businesses close to the Reagan administration.
The bankers made their allegation in a memorandum given to the Aquino government commission set up to recover Marcos's "ill-gotten" wealth. But they offered no documented proof for the assertions, which were reprinted in a major Manila newspaper and reported yesterday in some American newspapers.