PAO tells Noynoy: Galman did it

- Christina Mendez -

The principal advocate of executive clemency for 13 of the 15 convicted killers of Sen. Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr. and his military-tagged assassin Rolando Galman delivered a copy of the forensic review of the murder case to the son of the slain opposition leader in his office at the Senate yesterday.

However, Chief Public Attorney Persida Rueda-Acosta, who had no appointment, failed to meet with Sen. Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III, who was out to lunch.

Nevertheless, Acosta showed reporters a copy of a study conducted by an independent forensic group from the University of the Philippines, with Prof. Jerome Bailen, lawyer Erwin Erfe, Benito Molino and Anastacio Rosete Jr. as members.

Acosta said the Public Attorney’s Office (PAO) used the same study, entitled “Death on the Tarmac: The Credible View” in its motion to the Supreme Court to reopen the Aquino-Galman murder case in 2004, Acosta said.

The study showed that Galman killed Ninoy, she added.

Acosta said these were vital documents used by the PAO to argue for the granting of executive clemency to the 13 former soldiers:

• Rolando de Guzman, 55 – right side of the body is paralyzed due to stroke; Type 2 diabetes; chronic kidney disease; severe hypertension and costochondritis.

• Claro Lat, 59 – severe hypertension; angina pectoris or a coronary heart disease in which the heart muscle does not get as much blood/oxygen as it needs; Type 2 diabetes, dyslipidemia or high cholesterol and benign prostatic hypertrophy or enlarged prostate.

• Ernesto Mateo, 53 – severe hypertension and dyslipidemia.

• Felizardo Taran, 61 – Type 2 diabetes, severe hypertension, diabetic retinopathy, diabetic nephropathy and diabetic gastropathy.

• Mario Lazaga, 54 – Type 2 diabetes, hypertension and diabetes neuropathy.

• Felomino Miranda, 59 – Type 2 diabetes, severe hypertension and dyslipedemia.

• Arnulfo Artates, 53 – acute renal failure secondary to obstructive uropathy or kidney failure; autosomal dominant polycystic kidney disease or multiple cysts in the kidney; ureterolithiasis or stone in the urether and bradyarrythmia or irregular heartbeat.

• Jesus Castro, 58 – severe hypertension and dyslipidemia.

• Arnulfo de Mesa, 48 – Type 2 diabetes, fatty liver and upper respiratory tract infection.

• Rodolfo Desolong, 62 – severe hypertension; type 2 diabetes; diabetic retinopathy, neuritis and dyslipidemia.

• Romeo Bautista, 57 – hypertension, cerebrovascular disease and dyslipidemia.

• Ruben Aquino, 57 – state III hypertension; type 2 diabetes; dyslipidemia; hyperthyroidism.

• Rogelio Moreno, 51 – severe hypertension, cerebrovascular disease; dyslipidemia.

Erap backs clemency

Joining the call for the immediate release of the 13 convicted killers of Aquino and Galman is ousted President Joseph Estrada, who was himself granted executive clemency last year.

“As far as I am concerned, those soldiers are not the killers of Ninoy,” he said.

“Maybe, some of them are not involved. We should pardon them. It is about time for them to be pardoned. After all those years, they were not able to identify the masterminds.”

Noynoy has strongly objected to the plan to grant executive clemency for the 13, who have been in prison for more than 20 years.

“Atty. Persida Rueda-Acosta, as an officer of the court and a member of the bar, should champion the rule of law,” he said.

“For reasons known only to her, she has made it a crusade to free the people convicted of killing my father, and who were responsible for bringing our country to the brink of civil war.”

Acosta asked President Arroyo last week to grant executive clemency to the 13 convicts on grounds that they are suffering from “life-threatening” illnesses.

Despite a statement from Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Sergio Apostol that the 13 should just be hospitalized, not pardoned,   Acosta said she remains optimistic that Mrs. Arroyo would grant them executive clemency.

“It was only Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Apostol who said that,” she said.

“I have not lost hope because it was not Ma’am (President Arroyo) who said that she was not in favor of giving them a pardon.

“We are still appealing to the heart of the President. It is about time that the true spirit of reconciliation be implemented throughout the land.”

Acosta said the government would have to shoulder the medical expenses since they do not have any money as they have been in prison for 25 years.

“It would be added burden to the New Bilibid Prisons (NBP),” she said.

“Whenever they had to be brought to the hospital, they would have to be accompanied by two jail guards from the NBP. Since there are 13 inmates, the NBP would have to assign at least 26 security personnel for them.”

Acosta said it was practical to grant executive clemency to the ailing 13 former soldiers instead of hospitalizing them as proposed by Malacañang.

“Who is going to shoulder the cost of their hospitalization?” she asked.

“Unlike Erap, they don’t have the means. Whereas if they will be allowed to go to (their hometown in) the provinces, there are health centers there where they could get their maintenance medication.”

Acosta said free generic medicine at health centers could be readily availed of by the 13 after they are freed from prison.

 “If we are to consider practicality, I think the government should just grant pardon to the soldiers,” she said. “And which hospital is going to agree to accommodate them for free?”

Acosta said the plan could set a precedent for other “ailing” convicts who are still behind bars.

“Other convicts who are also sick might envy these soldiers (and would also want to be hospitalized),” she said.

Last November, former master sergeant Pablo Martinez, the 14th convicted killer of Aquino and Galman, was granted executive clemency by Mrs. Arroyo after reaching the age of 70.

The 15th convict, former airman first class Cordova Estelo, was killed in a rumble at the NBP in Muntinlupa in 2005. – with Jose Rodel Clapano, Evelyn Macairan, Reinir Padua

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