Who ordered the killing of Ninoy Aquino?

WHAT MATTERS MOST - Atty. Josephus B. Jimenez - The Freeman

Until today, the 40th anniversary of the assassination of Senator Benigno Aquino Jr., the Philippine justice system has failed to identify, arrest, prosecute, and convict the mastermind of that heinous crime. From August 21, 1983, until this very day, the Filipino people seem to have already accepted the conclusion that the brains behind the killing will forever remain unknown.

I remember that it was a lazy Sunday afternoon when all the radio networks and TV channels were in unison, informing the Filipino nation that Ninoy had been murdered by one Rolando Galman, who was also killed on the tarmac of what is now called the NAIA or the Ninoy Aquino International Airport. Ninoy, as all Filipinos of our generation very well knew, was arrested in 1972 upon the declaration of martial law based on trumped-up charges of which he was convicted by a military tribunal and was sentenced to death. He was detained in Fort Bonifacio since the martial law administrators were not prepared to face the international backlash and the anger of the people if they executed Ninoy.

In 1980, while in prison, Ninoy suffered a heart attack and he was rushed to the Philippine Heart Center. Fearing that Ninoy might die and the government would surely be blamed for it, Ninoy was allowed to travel to the US for an urgent heart operation. Ninoy succeeded in obtaining political asylum in America and so from 1980, after his operation, he and his family lived in exile in Boston, Massachusetts. Ninoy became very popular and he earned quite a lot in many speaking engagements because all the 50 US states wanted to hear the true story about Philippine Martial Law. Ninoy was a terrific speaker, a declaimer, an orator, and a spellbinding speaker who could make his audience laugh and cry by the sheer power of his eloquence and strength of his messages.

On August 13, 1983, Ninoy after hearing Mass, Ninoy went to the Boston International Airport, then flew to LA to speak before a conference of Filipino freedom fighters. Someone arranged for his travel to Japan, then to Hong Kong, then Singapore, then Malaysia. He met then Prime Minister Mahathir and some Indonesian and Thai officials who were his friends. Then Ninoy flew from Singapore to Hong Kong then took a plane to Taipei. On August 21, 1983, Ninoy boarded the plane and used a passport under the name of Marcial Bonifacio (Marcial for martial law, and Bonifacio for Fort Bonifacio). It was China Airlines Flight 811. In the airport, his mother Aurora Aquino was waiting with 20,000 pro-Ninoy Filipinos led by his friend, Senator Salvador Doy Laurel.

The plane landed in Gate number 8. At 1:14 p.m., Ninoy got up from his seat number 14C. Fifty seconds later, as he was descending from the stairway, shots were fired after some AVSECOM (Aviation Security Command) soldiers were heard shouting "pusila, pusila". After a few seconds, two men fell dead onto the tarmac, Ninoy and another man, later identified as Rolando Galman, the fall guy. Later, the police and other law enforcers recovered 26 M16 shells, one empty .45 cal. shell and five unused bullets. Ninoy's body was carried and loaded into the AVSECOM van. At 5:15 p.m., General Prospero Olivas, METROCOM chief, held a press conference announcing that it was Rolando Galman who shot Ninoy Aquino. But nobody believed him, I would say.

On August 24, 1983, President Marcos created the Agrava Board tasked to investigate the killing. It was headed by retired Court of Appeals justice Corazon Agrava and the following as members: top lawyer Luciano Salazar, businessmen Dante Santos, Labor Leader Ernesto Herrera and educator Amado Dizon. On October 23, 1984, two reports were submitted to President Marcos. The minority report with Chairman Agrava alone concluded that the killing was a military conspiracy but it excluded General Fabian Ver (Marcos' close relative who was the AFP chief of staff) from any culpability. The majority report composed of all the other four members implicated General Ver, as well as General Olivas and Colonel Luther Custodio, AVSECOM head. The majority found that it was not Galman who shot Ninoy.

Because of his death, the people installed his wife Corazon Aquino as president in 1986. In 2010, his son Benigno S. Aquino, III was elected president. But until today, 40 years later, no one can tell who ordered the killing of Ninoy. Perhaps we shall know, many years from today when Bimby Aquino Yap becomes president.

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