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Kidnapping of Marcos son-in-law shakes Philippines

A secret wedding and the mysterious disappearance of the groom 25 days later has involved President Ferdinand Marcos in an embarrassing family controversy with political implications.

Tomas Manotoc, popular sportsman and amateur golfer who married Imee Marcos, the President's talented elder daughter, is believed to have been kidnapped Dec. 29. His disappearance has been linked by some to his marriage, which her parents maintain is invalid on the grounds that he is already married.

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In an official statement, President Marcos immediately squelched such speculation and denied having anything to do with the abduction of Mr. Manotoc.

On the contrary, the President was said to have taken a direct hand in the investigation of the kidnapping case by ordering both police and military forces to negotiate and secure Mr. Manotoc's safe release.

''He (Tomas Manotoc) remains married to Aurora Pijuan, by whom he has two children. He therefore poses no problem to any member of the President's family, '' the official statement said.

The President accused the Manotoc family of making political propaganda out of the kidnapping case, instead of cooperating with the police authorities to solve it. It was stressed that Mr. Manotoc was the nephew of two of Marcos's political foes based in the United States - Raul Manglapus and Eugenio Lopez Jr. The President's statement charged that the kidnapping was a plot hatched by Marcos opponents to embarrass the first family.

The Manotocs deny this allegation. ''That is ridiculous. I know my son's feelings. He is not political,'' Mr. Manotoc's father, Ricardo, said.

(According to the BBC Jan. 6, a Philippines criminal court has said it will begin proceedings against 40 people accused of involvement in a subversive campaign including bombings in Manila in 1980. All but 12 will be tried in absentia, since they are in the US. Among these are former senators Benigno S. Aquino Jr., Jovita Salonga, and Raul Manglapus.)

The controversy has caused special interest because Imee Marcos had long been believed to be the President's favorite child. She is the most politically inclined of the three Marcos children, and is a bright law student expected to graduate with high honors next year.

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She appeared to have defied her family by marrying Manotoc secretly.

Imee Marcos was not available for comment, but her mother told the Associated Press that if Mr. Manotoc were killed, it would be a traumatic experience for her daughter. Sources close to the scene said Mr. Manotoc's parents were invited for a talk at the President's residence, but they declined the invitation.

Four days after Mr. Manotoc was kidnapped, a ransom note was stuck in the gate of his parents' residence in suburban Makati. It contained three demands - amnesty for the kidnappers, release of four political prisoners accused of subversion, and a 20-million-peso ($2.5 million) ransom. Manotoc's parents, however, denounced the ransom note as fake. It was not their son's handwriting, they told the press.

A sensitive question was raised about the legality of Manotoc's marriage to Imee Marcos because he was previously married to Aurora Pijuan, who was the 1970 Miss International Beauty Queen. Divorce is prohibited in the Philippines, and the powerful Roman Catholic Church has consistently opposed its legalization.

The couple reportedly sought a church annulment of Manotoc's previous marriage in Rome, and later a civil annulment in Switzerland. They were married Dec. 4 in Arlington, Va.


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