U.S. diplomats made clear today that they had anticipated possible attempts by the government of deposed president Ferdinand Marcos to divert American economic aid for his own political purposes but denied a report by the new Philippine government that Marcos had done so successfully.
Agency for International Development officials said they had tightened their accounting procedures specifically against possible diversion of aid money in January, during the height of the presidential election campaign. They insisted that Marcos could not have stolen interest from a joint AID-Philippine government fund, as Philippine investigators charged Wednesday.
In a four-page statement, the AID mission here said, however, that there were "apparently improper expenditures" by the Economic Support Fund Secretariat, the Marcos-controlled office that managed the fund as well as other Philippine government money. But, the AID statement said, these expenditures "were all made from Philippine government funds" and not from U.S. money.
The U.S. statement today came as the official Philippine audit commission released documents to support its argument that Marcos had diverted interest from the U.S. economic support fund set up to help build schools, roads and other projects. The documents released so far show a series of accounts set up to channel money linked to the fund but do not appear to prove that Marcos diverted U.S. funds or interest.
In a related development, the government-run television station in Manila reported today that it was missing more than $6 million in funds that officials said had been taken by Marcos' palace press office to help meet election expenses.
During the election campaign, Marcos' government spent so heavily to fund "pork barrel" projects and buy votes that there was a general expectation that he would seek any source of revenue for his campaign, Philippine and western economists have said.
In its statement today, the AID mission here said that, beginning in January, the agency had made weekly -- instead of monthly -- examinations of the fund "to insure that we would catch inappropriate outlays quickly."
The audit commission said Wednesday that records showed that Marcos had ordered the manager of the Philippine government office that manages the AID fund and other accounts to withdraw $1.75 million improperly. The commission said the money had originated as interest siphoned from the AID fund, but U.S. officials have denied this.
The audit commission said that $650,000 was returned to the account following the Feb. 7 election but that $1.1 million is still missing.
Today's AID statement said the two sides also had been arguing about how the Marcos government should be permitted to use the interest earned on its economic support fund grants. Despite discouragement from AID, the Marcos government had deposited its funds, which totaled $140 million in 1985, in an interest-earning account, raising the sensitive question of who owned and controlled the interest.
"At the time of the fall of the Marcos government, the question of the interest on the 'economic support funds' was the subject of an ongoing dispute between our two governments," the AID statement said.