Imelda Marcos, after negotiating directly with secret emissaries of the Philippine government, claimed through her Los Angeles attorneys Monday that Manila has agreed to drop its multibillion-dollar damage suit against her in exchange for 60% of whatever funds remain in various Hong Kong banks.
Her claim was disputed by lawyers for the Philippines.
U.S. District Judge Mariana R. Pfaelzer scheduled a hearing Friday in her Los Angeles courtroom to decide whether to dismiss the suit, which previously was set for trial in early 1992.
If the purported deal goes through, the settlement would leave unresolved the distribution of hundreds of millions of dollars in additional assets ranging from bank accounts in Switzerland to properties in the United States.
During a hearing Monday, Marcos attorney James P. Linn turned over documents signed by Marcos and David Castro, an aide to Philippine President Corazon Aquino, that Linn said constituted a binding agreement to settle the lawsuit.
"I'm told Mr. Castro signed it in the presence of Mrs. Aquino," Linn said outside court. "It's our view that we have a deal with the Philippine government."
Attorneys for the Philippines said, however, that no such deal was intended or authorized. They characterized the purported settlement as simply a discussion of how to divide the Hong Kong portion of assets controlled by Marcos and the estate of her late husband, former Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos.
Apparently, neither Linn nor the Los Angeles-based attorneys for the Philippines, Ronald Olson and Alan Bersin, were involved in the secret negotiations conducted via telephone and fax between Manila and Marcos in New York since mid-October. Acting as secret intermediary was Alejandro Roces, publisher of the Manila Bulletin.
Sources close to the negotiations told The Times that the unusual talks grew out of a desire by Philippine officials--including Castro, chairman of Aquino's Presidential Commission on Good Government--to work out a settlement agreement directly with Marcos in order to reduce the amount of a contingency fees owed to the government's Los Angeles law firm of Munger, Tolles & Olson.
"They (Philippine officials) were penny-wise and dollar foolish," observed one source. "They managed to get themselves in trouble."
Records turned over to the court Monday show that the Philippine government would get 60% of all assets in five different Hong Kong banks and that 40% would go to "other parties." Linn said Marcos would retain 35% and the other 5% would go to unknown parties.
No one seemed to know how much money is on deposit in the Hong Kong accounts. Linn told the court that Marcos, who is expected to attend Friday's hearing, does not know. Attorneys for the Philippines said they have no knowledge of the amount.