Marcos's kidnapped son-in-law still casts shadow -- even after release

The rescue from captivity of the Filipino sportsman who secretly married President Ferdinand Marcos's elder daughter, Imee, has cleared but not completely dissipated the cloud of suspicion that had swirled around the president.

Tomas Manotoc, who married Imee Marcos in the United States last December after divorcing his first wife, was ''rescued'' last week after 41 days of captivity. The ace golfer disappeared last Dec. 29, after a dining with his new wife.

Despite Mr. Manotoc's statements that the President had nothing to do with his abduction, skeptics are looking carefully for any loophole in official accounts.

Meanwhile the rescued sportsman has been under heavy pressure, according to sources close to the Manotoc family. There is no certainty that his marriage to Imee Marcos will be recognized because of non-recognition of divorce in this country. Also the president's daughter is being groomed to be the heir apparent to the Marcos's political legacy. A marriage of this nature is considered too complicated in the Philippines social context.

There was early speculation that Mr. Manotoc's kidnapping was the consequence of the much-opposed secret marriage, which upset the Marcoses greatly.

So when the Information Ministry announced that Manotoc had been ''rescued,'' it was natural that excited journalists, photographers, and television crews hastened to a press conference in suburban Manila.

In addition to a handwritten account of his abduction by ''people who identified with the outlawed (communist) New People's Army (NPA),'' Mr. Manotoc narrated how he was snatched by three men whose cars blocked his way near his home.

Manotoc also read a letter to Marcos which he wrote after he was rescued. The letter stressed that the Marcoses had nothing to do with his kidnapping. Manotoc also denied that the kidnapping was related to his marriage to Imee Marcos. But such is the climate of suspicion in this country, that speculation damaging to President Marcos continues to linger.

Fueling it was a statement Feb. 10 by the National Democratic Front (NDF) in which the underground movement repudiated any claims of NPA involvement in Manotoc's kidnapping.

According to Manotoc, his captors beat him badly during the first three days of his captivity. He said that he was made to memorize ''communist slogans and phrases.''

But Manotoc did not give any examples of the slogans he learned. Skeptics said this type of indoctrination was more likely attributable to the military than to the NPA.

Manotoc was said to have been rescued by military intelligence elements of the armed forces, who traced the hideout.

Despite Manotoc's story which appeared consistent with the content of the two ransom notes that implicated the NPA, some did not believe him. Some people familiar with the communist guerrilla organization suggested that the allegations were totally inconsistent with the NPA's character.

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