Marcos's bid to return to Philippines foiled by State Department. Empty jet and Imelda's visit to combat gear shop tip off officials

The US government has headed off an apparent attempt by former Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos to flee Hawaiian exile for his homeland. Administration officials confirm that a State Department representative was dispatched to Mr. Marcos's Honolulu home last Tuesday evening. Whether the envoy persuaded or ordered the restless ex-despot to stay put is a matter in dispute among the involved parties.

``We explained to him what the situation was and he decided not to go,'' a State Department official says.

``I feel that now I am being treated like a prisoner,'' Marcos told reporters.

Officials of the Philippine government of Corazon Aquino had told Washington they believed a bolt by Marcos was imminent, and that they did not want him back in the country.

According to White House spokesman Larry Speakes, Marcos was admitted to the United States on the condition that he could return to the Philippines only if invited by the government. Otherwise, the Marcos entourage is free to travel, Mr. Speakes said yesterday.

This latest development in the Marcos exile had elements of both spy thriller and low comedy. A mysterious empty jetliner was reported waiting for Marcos at Honolulu International Airport; meanwhile, Imelda Marcos swept up $2,000 worth of jungle boots and camouflage outfits at a local combat gear store.

Speakes denied that it was the shopping habits of Mrs. Marcos that tipped off the US government to the affair.

Marcos himself vaguely denied that he had imminent plans to flee. A number of US analysts said this was probably true, and that he orchestrated reports of his leaving simply to make mischief.

``It makes everybody else involved overreact. The result is almost as if he actually went,'' says Carnegie Endowment analyst Richard Kessler.

Marcos and his wife are in the US on the parole authority of the attorney general, an immigration classification used for a variety of special cases. This authority can be extended for an indefinite period. But the recipient has no US passport and is not regarded by the law as officially admitted into the country.

The Marcoses can theoretically leave anytime they want but would have no guarantee of readmittance.

``They're really in limbo,'' says an Immigration Service spokesman.

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