Deposed Philippine president Ferdinand Marcos' plans to move from Hawaii to a new "safe haven" in Panama fell apart last night when Panama rejected his petition for asylum.
Marcos, who has been at Hickam Air Force Base in Honolulu since the day after his 20-year-rule ended Feb. 25, had expected to leave for Panama last night. The Reagan administration had lined up Air Force transportation and had prepared public statements to be issued in connection with his departure.
Administration sources said the unexpected hitch developed a few hours before Marcos, his wife Imelda, and an entourage of about 40 planned to leave Hawaii. Panama's rejection came after several political leaders bitterly attacked the proposal. State Department officials continued to say last night that discussions were being held about Marcos' future with more than one country.
Marcos notified the State Department late last week that he wished to leave the United States for another temporary haven and requested help in making arrangements. U.S. diplomats are said to have held exploratory discussions with several countries on his behalf before settling on Panama as the most feasible and acceptable location.
Spain made clear that it would not accept him, according to officials. Singapore and Indonesia were also eliminated from his list after the government of Corazon Aquino, Marcos' successor, asked those closely allied Asian states not to accept him.
Marcos has not told his State Department liaison officer in Hawaii precisely why he has decided to leave or how long he expects to stay outside the United States, according to a senior official.
Marcos has made it clear that "he feels he's being harassed" by the American news media, this official said, leading to the surmise here that the former president and his wife want to get off the front pages and believe that it will help if they leave the United States.
Another administration official suggested that Marcos may be anxious to leave before he could be sued in U.S. courts or subpoenaed by congressional committees, which might complicate his exit from the United States and further travels. In view of the legal situation, the official said, "I'm surprised he hasn't left sooner."
Negotiations between Marcos' son-in-law, Gregerio Aranata II, and Panamanian authorities had been going on for several days, with the United States playing what sources here described as "a facilitating role."
Marcos, whose vast wealth has been the subject of almost daily disclosures since he left Manila, was reported to have been confronted with a Panamanian demand that he pay as much as $150,000 a week to reside there, not counting meals for himself and his entourage.
By yesterday afternoon, officials in Washington were saying that agreement had been reached between Marcos and the Panamanians and plans had been set in motion for a late night departure. But the Panamanian leadership apparently had second thoughts.
After the opposition objected to giving Marcos refuge, President Eric Arturo Delvalle last night rejected Marcos' petition for asylum. Delvalle's press secretary, Guillermo Abames, announced the decision, and officials in Panama City said it was relayed to the U.S. Embassy there.
"Marcos does not represent Panama's democratic interests," a Panamanian official, who was not identified, told United Press International.
Earlier in the day, Pedro Brin Martinez, head of the Panamanian National Assembly's Foreign Relations Committee, said he would press for Marcos' extradition to the Philippines if he were granted asylum.
Ricardo Arias Calderon, president of the opposition Christian Democratic Party, told UPI, "It is a scandal that Panama again receives persons who are the political garbage of the world."
Panama provided a refuge for the deposed shah of Iran for three months starting Dec. 15, 1979, as a favor to the Carter administration, which believed that his departure from U.S. soil would facilitate release of Americans held hostage in Tehran. As it turned out, the Americans were held more than 13 months after the former shah left.
At Marcos' request, according to a senior State Department official, he had been given clear and explicit assurances that he would be permitted to return to the United States whenever he wished. This assurance as well as U.S. Air Force transportation are in fulfillment of the Reagan administration guarantee that Marcos would be treated with "dignity and honor" in this country if he relinquished power peacefully.
Officials said it was not anticipated that former chief of staff Gen. Fabian Ver and Philippine businessman Eduardo M. Cojuangco, who traveled to Hawaii with Marcos, would be going with him to a new safe haven.