A document indicating an attempt by the former Philippine government to influence American politics names the Mabuhay Corp., a company founded in San Francisco in 1978 by a leading West Coast spokesman for deposed president Ferdinand Marcos, as a source of U.S. campaign contributions.
That spokesman, Leonilo Malabed, a San Francisco physician who described himself in an interview yesterday as a "friend, not a crony" of Marcos, said he "was not used as a contact by any Filipinos to funnel any money to an American politician."
Malabed said he contributed to the 1980 presidential campaigns of then-President Jimmy Carter and candidate Ronald Reagan and to the reelection campaign of Sen. Alan Cranston (D-Calif.), but said "it was all money out of my own pocket."
The information about Mabuhay Corp. emerged yesterday with a dozen other disparate threads in Marcos' complex finances, including Swiss bank accounts, offshore corporations, New York skyscrapers, a nuclear power plant, sardine shipments and a 519-carat sapphire. There also were new indications, tacitly acknowledged by the U.S. government, that Marcos is preparing to leave his Hawaiian exile for a new haven in Panama, possibly this weekend.
As interest in the documents intensified, the Justice Department and a House subcommittee investigating Marcos' finances tangled over whether to make the more than 2,000 pages public. Although some of the documents were waved tantalizingly before television cameras at a Capitol Hill hearing packed with reporters, by day's end the papers remained hidden from public view, their contents known largely through hints and selective leaks.
The document naming Mabuhay -- which means "long live" in the Filipino language of Tagalog -- was among those brought to the United States by Marcos on Feb. 26, and turned over by the U.S. government on Monday to congressional and Philippine investigators.
Several sources who have seen the document described it as a balance sheet dated February 1982, recording contributions of $50,000 each to the 1980 Carter and Reagan campaigns, $10,000 to Cranston, and much smaller amounts to other state and local officials in California, including "S.F. Mayor D.F." (presumed to be San Francisco Mayor Dianne Feinstein) and Leo McCarthy, California lieutenant governor.
The list of contributions, typed on a plain sheet of paper, provides no evidence that the contributions were received by the various campaigns. All candidates named on the list and contacted by reporters have said they had no knowledge of receiving campaign money from Marcos or his associates.
The credibility of the document came under heavy attack yesterday at a congressional hearing at which it was pointed out that some of the most prominent politicians on the list are opponents of Marcos.
Cranston, one of the first members of Congress to call for Marcos' resignation and an early sponsor of legislation to cut U.S. military aid to the Philippines, yesterday called his presence on the list "extremely ironic."
"If Marcos or his minions managed to launder or sneak money into my campaign, they sure picked the wrong guy," Cranston said at a hearing of the House Foreign Affairs subcommittee on East Asian and Pacific affairs.
Later, however, Cranston's office discovered that Malabed and Romeo Esperanza, an officer of Mabuhay, each contributed $500 to Cranston's 1980 Senate primary campaign. Cranston's press secretary, Murray S. Flander, said last night that the senator's staff searched for the two names among his list of contributors after being questioned by reporters.
"We don't know who these people are," Flander said. "Nobody ever approached us to get Cranston to soften his anti-Marcos position."
A spokesman in Honolulu for the new Philippine government of Corazon Aquino said a Mabuhay Corp. in Manila is controlled by Gen. Fabian Ver, former chief of staff of the Philippine armed forces who fled to Hawaii with Marcos. The spokesman, Horacio Paredes, said he doubted that any campaign contributions made on Marcos' behalf could be conclusively traced to the firm.
Sources familiar with the Mabuhay document said it also listed about $500,000 in expenditures for "security projects" by "CG," a notation that Philippine government investigator Jovito Salonga identified as likely meaning "commanding general."
A handwritten note on the document said all payments were made with approval from the "chief of staff." Ver's name was not mentioned.
Contributions by foreigners -- including foreign corporations -- are illegal under federal and California election law.
In other developments yesterday:
Salonga, head of a Philippine government commission that seeks to seize what it alleges is Marcos' "ill-gotten" wealth, told a congressional subcommittee that he has found documents in Manila indicating that U.S. aid may have been recycled into Swiss bank accounts as kickbacks to Filipinos for government public works contracts.
One of the Marcos documents turned over to investigators on Monday showed $411,000 in purchases of jewels such as sapphires, emeralds and rubies, including a 519-carat sapphire bead, according to information that emerged at yesterday's House Foreign Affairs subcommittee hearing. Salonga said that a few of those jewels appeared to be the property of the Philippine government.
Westinghouse Electric Corp., named in the Marcos documents as having paid $11 million in commissions to an unidentified recipient, issued a statement acknowledging $17 million in payments over a 10-year period to Marcos associate Herminio Disini "for help in obtaining and implementing" a contract to build the Philippines' first nuclear power plant in the 1970s.
Earlier published reports put the amount at $80 million and alleged that most of the money was funneled to Marcos. Westinghouse spokesmen have said the payments were legal and that they were not aware if any money reached Marcos. A federal grand jury in Pittsburgh is investigating the payments, government sources have said.
The Mabuhay document was referred to the Justice Department for criminal investigation, but department officials said yesterday that one potential problem with any probe of 1980 contributions is that violations of federal election law have a three-year statute of limitations.
The Mabuhay Corp. was organized on Nov. 9, 1978, by a group of Philippine-Americans in the San Francisco area for the purpose of purchasing radio station KJAZ in Alameda, Calif., according to public documents and news accounts.
Malabed, 64, is the only individual listed in the incorporation papers filed with the California secretary of state. He and Marcos were born in the same town in the Ilocos region of the Philippines and attended the University of the Philippines together. In a recent interview with the San Francisco Examiner, Malabed said he and Marcos are "like brothers."
In the spring of 1979, Mabuhay's application to purchase the radio station, for a reported $1.6 million, drew a formal complaint from Alex Esclamado, publisher of the Philippine News, an anti-Marcos newspaper in San Francisco.
Esclamado said yesterday that he alleged in a 1979 letter to the Federal Communications Commission that the Mabuhay Corp. was a "front" for a foreign government -- the Marcos regime. He said he showed that Malabed and three other directors of Mabuhay -- Demetrio Jayme, Zoila Inacay and Fred Al Bitanga -- were also directors of the Philippine Bank of California, which, Esclamado said, was wholly capitalized by Philippine government funds.
In an interview yesterday, Esclamado said the "interlocking directorate" of the bank and the corporation was the basis for his claim that the corporation was a front.
The Mabuhay Corp. never purchased the station. It withdrew its application, Malabed said, when its lawyers advised the corporation that the seller might not have clear title. The corporation dissolved in 1982.
According to Federal Election Commission documents, Malabed and two other members of his family contributed $2,150 to the Carter-Mondale campaign in 1980, $4,125 to the Democratic National Committee in 1980, and $500 to Cranston's relection campaign.
Malabed said yesterday he also contributed $250 to Reagan -- which does not turn up on FEC records -- and made contributions of $25 and $50 to local politicians in California. All of it, he said, was his personal money.
The FEC check shows that, aside from the 1980 contributions to Carter, Cranston and the DNC, Malabed made no other contributions to federal candidates in 1976, 1980 or 1984.
Democratic and Republican political sources connected with the Carter and Reagan presidential campaigns denied yesterday they ever knew of, or even heard rumors about, the Marcos government trying to funnel cash into American elections in 1980.
"With the $1,000 limit on individual contributions , it would have taken an awful lot of work for someone to try to get $50,000 to us without us knowing anything about it," said Timothy Finchem, national finance director of the 1980 Carter-Mondale campaign. "We were very careful to stay away from offshore money. Everyone knows it's illegal. If something had come in, I would have known about it."
California politicians named in the document also issued denials yesterday.
San Francisco Mayor Feinstein said: "Unless concealed under identities unknown to me, I have not recevied any contributions from Marcos or any known associates . . . . The document allegedly indicating a Philippine campaign contribution in my name is a total mystery to me."
California Lt. Gov. McCarthy said "it's idiotic. I have never received any contributions that I'm aware of from Ferdinand Marcos . . . . I never met Ferdinand Marcos. To the best of my knowledge, I've never met anyone close to Ferdinand Marcos."
White House spokesman Larry Speakes also questioned the authenticity of the document, emphasizing that it does not say to whom, when or how a contribution was made to the Reagan campaign. He said that such a contribution would have been illegal, and added: "We believe we had adequate safeguards to prevent this."
Salonga told the House panel yesterday that he "did not give the Mabuhay document much credence because it does not bear any signature or initial," and would not stand up in court.
Justice Department officials sought in a meeting yesterday to persuade Rep. Stephen J. Solarz (D-N.Y.), chairman of the panel that received the Marcos documents on Monday, to keep them confidential for at least 90 days while Justice investigates matters related to Marcos and his associates.
Federal grand juries in Pittsburgh and Alexandria, Va., are known to be using the documents in investigations of business dealings of Marcos associates.
Justice spokesman Terry H. Eastland said the department is concerned "that where there is material that could be relevant to an investigation, its disclosure publicly could have a chilling effect. Witnesses could find places to hide. Things could disappear that could be relevant to an investigation."
More information was likely to emerge today, when Morton Stavis, a lawyer for the Constitutional Rights Center representing the Aquino goverment, has said he will take Salonga's public deposition in a case involving five pieces of prime New York real estate that the Marcos family is alleged to own.
The buildings, estimated to be worth $350 million, are at the center of a New York state court battle by the Aquino government to recoup Marcos' alleged holdings. Managers of the buildings, arguing that the Marcoses have no interest in the properties, asked a federal judge yesterday to take jurisdiction of the case away from the state court.