The Federal Election Commission narrowly rejected charges that deposed Philippine president Ferdinand Marcos illegally contributed to the 1980 election campaigns of Ronald Reagan, Jimmy Carter and Sen. Alan Cranston (D-Calif.).

Rejecting the recommendation of FEC general counsel Charles N. Steele, the commission declined, by one vote, to proceed with a full-scale investigation of charges that Marcos violated laws prohibiting contributions by foreigners, or contributions under assumed names.

The FEC vote was 3 to 2 in favor of the investigation, but four affirmative votes are required for a full-scale probe of a complaint. An identical split vote defeated a similar motion to investigate Marcos' crony Leonilo Malabed of San Francisco, whose Mabuhay Corp. was suspected of being the conduit for the alleged contributions.

The commission, following Steele's recommendation, voted unanimously that there was no reason to believe that the campaigns or the Democratic National Committee had violated any laws in connection with such contributions.

The vote on the Marcos allegations was divided along partisan lines, with Republican commissioners Lee Ann Elliott and Thomas Josefiak voting against a finding of violations, and Democrats Danny L. McDonald, John Warren McGarry and Thomas Harris voting in favor. The third Republican commissioner, Joan Aikens, abstained.

The complaint, filed March 24 by Mary Jane Freeman of Washington, cited a March 19 report in The Washington Post that Freeman said indicated that the Reagan, Carter and Cranston campaigns and the DNC had received contributions from Marcos.

That report was based in part on a purported "strictly confidential" statement of expenses of the Mabuhay Corp. as of Feb. 15, 1982, listing political contributions of $50,000 each to Reagan and Carter, $1,500 to the "Carter-Mondale committee," and $10,000 to Cranston, as well as other contributions to California and San Francisco elected officials.

Those named have denied knowingly receiving any funds from Marcos.

The Mabuhay document was one of 2,300 found in Marcos' possession when he arrived in Hawaii in February following the collapse of his government. The document was the subject of a hearing before Rep. Stephen Solarz's House Foreign Affairs subcommittee on Asian and Pacific affairs March 19.

Malabed has said he was unaware of any foreign sources of money contributed to U.S. politicians by himself or by corporations under his control or ownership. He submitted a list of his political contributions, which the FEC said differed from reports filed by U.S. political organizations and candidates on contributions from Malabed.

Marcos' chief aide, Arturo Aruiza, said he did not think Marcos received notice from the FEC. However, Marcos received a letter from Steele July 1, saying that the complaint filed with the FEC against Marcos had been turned down.

As a result, Steele said, the FEC has "closed its file" in the case.

In arguing for a formal investigation, Steele contended that the FEC should authorize an investigation into the allegations because Marcos did not reply to a request for an explanation of the Mabuhay document.

In addition, separate documents submitted by Malabed did not coincide precisely with the FEC reports of his contributions to the DNC and to the Carter-Mondale Committee, according to Steele.

FEC spokesman Eiland said that if the commission had voted in support of Steele, it would have undertaken a formal investigation to determine whether the law was violated.

Eiland said penalties for violation are $5,000 or the amount involved in the violation, but could be imposed only through a conciliation proceeding.