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Aquino last week ordered Philippine banks to freeze the financial holdings of Marcos, his wife Imelda and at least 47 relatives and friends, and asked other countries to follow suit. It is unlikely that Washington will comply, but two states have already acted to prevent Marcos from selling off his property. Early this month the New York State Supreme Court issued a temporary restraining order barring the transfer or sale of the New York properties until March 19. Last week a New Jersey superior court temporarily stopped any transactions on two homes linked to Marcos: an 18th century mansion in Lawrence Township listed for sale at $825,000, and a house in Cherry Hill worth an estimated $160,000.
Last week Salonga brought his investigation to the U.S. and immediately had a pleasant surprise. After more than a week of legal jousting, the U.S. agreed to give the Aquino government and the House subcommittee on Asian and Pacific Affairs, which is investigating the Marcos U.S. holdings, copies of the approximately 1,500 financial documents the former leader brought with him to Hickam Air Force Base in Hawaii when he fled. Less than a day later, however, a federal court in Hawaii held up the release of the papers. Subcommittee Chairman Stephen Solarz, a Democrat from New York, says he will subpoena the material if need be.
The legal justification for handing over the papers was apparently not watertight. Some Administration lawyers argued that the information could be provided only as part of a court proceeding. But the White House was concerned that delaying delivery of the documents would fuel critics' charges that it is shielding Marcos. "If Lech Walesa left Poland with a bunch of papers and the Polish government asked for copies, would we provide them?" one official asked. "I think not."
As the search for Marcos' wealth continued, the Aquino government turned its attention to the former President's principal legacy: economic chaos. The short-term picture is grim, acknowledges Economist Bernardo Villegas, deputy director of the Center for Research and Communication, a prominent Philippine think tank. The economy has not grown for two years, unemployment is high, and inflation could rise because of policies Marcos ordered to help him win re-election. But Villegas adds that now that the country has been freed from Marcos' grip, the Philippine economy will soon "snap back like a coiled spring." If the economy moves at the same deliberate pace as President Aquino, the spring may not snap back quite so fast. --By Susan Tifft. Reported by Edwin M. Reingold/Manila