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Reagan ‘Saddened’ by Indictment, But Didn’t Try to Block It With AM-US-Marcos Bjt

October 21, 1988

BOWLING GREEN, Ky. (AP) _ President Reagan ″is saddened″ by the indictment of former Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos and his wife Imelda on racketeering charges, but he allowed the Justice Department to proceed because ″no foreign policy considerations″ stood in the way, his spokesman said Friday.

White House spokesman Marlin Fitzwater, speaking with reporters during Reagan’s visit to Western Kentucky University, said the president realizes ″now it’s time for the justice system to take its course.″

Reagan ″is saddened that it happened, because he (Marcos) is an old friend and a friend of the country,″ Fitzwater said.

The spokesman also stressed, however, that Marcos has been indicted over matters that allegedly took place since he arrived in the United States in 1986.

″These are crimes that allegedly occurred since he (Marcos) got here - if he’d behaved himself ... he wouldn’t be in this position,″ Fitzwater said.

Reagan had hinted Thursday that he would not interfere in the Justice Department action, when he told reporters ″it would have to be a matter of foreign policy to bring to my desk, and not just something legal.″

According to the indictment, Marcos transferred $103 million into the United States to buy Manhattan real estate and also defrauded banking institutions of more than $165 million in the purchase and financing of those properties.

The indictment charged that between 1972 and 1986, when Marcos and his wife went into exile in Hawaii, they accumulated millions of dollars through embezzlement, theft, bribes and kickbacks.

Fitzwater said the State Department and the National Security Council ″had advised the president that there were no foreign policy considerations that would stand in the way of the Justice Department action.″

Fitzwater said he did not know the details of why those agencies reached that decision.

The president was aware that Marcos had been offered a plea bargain, and that if Marcos had accepted the government’s offer, ″there wouldn’t have been an indictment,″ Fitzwater said.

He said the White House ″went along″ with the plea bargain approach, but he said it was ″strictly a Justice Department plan.″

The spokesman added that after Marcos’ attorneys notified the Justice Department on Thursday night that he would not accept that arrangement, ″on that basis Justice went ahead.″

Asked how Reagan felt about the legal action against Marcos, Fitzwater said, ″Obviously, the president knew it, had aided in his departure from the Philippines and feels saddened by the need for this.″

″But it’s clear that the Justice Department has a very strong case and it will proceed through the system,″ Fitzwater said.

The spokesman said he could not comment on whether there had been any contact between Reagan and Marcos because of the legal nature of the matter.

Asked if any other foreign leader might follow Marcos’ example and take refuge in the United States if he comes under pressure in his own country, Fitzwater said, ″We didn’t make any offers we couldn’t keep.″

″Any foreign leader can take our word on anything,″ he said.

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