Muntinlupa, Feb. 26, 2003 -- Former soldiers who admitted failure to secure former senator Benigno Aquino Jr. spent the 17th anniversary of People Power I yesterday pursuing "justice."

The soldiers, who are currently serving time at the National Penitentiary in Bilibid, Muntinlupa, said they hoped the senator's only son, Tarlac Rep. Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III, would indeed create a truth committee for the victims of martial law, and that they be included in the inquiries it would make.

"We are also victims of Marcos and martial law," one of the soldiers told The STAR yesterday. "We were the ones that (the Marcos regime) sacrificed when Ninoy was killed."

The soldiers, who were also convicted of the murder of the supposed assassin, Rolando Galman, feared that the truth about the masterminds would forever remain unknown after the 20-year prescription period for prosecution of murder cases expires this year.

"Time is running out," former Aquino-Galman prosecution lawyer Mario Ongkiko said in an interview Monday.

The Aquino family appeared lukewarm to the idea of a retrial to uncover the brains behind the twin slaying. The congressman was quoted as saying that the family has found "closure, in a sense."

Ongkiko explained that the prescription period begins from the time of the commission of the crime, its discovery, or knowledge of one's participation in the crime.

In the case of the Aquino-Galman murders, there were accomplices who have yet to be identified, thus the prescription period does not apply to them, Ongkiko said.

"They can still be charged after this year. But the longer the time lapses, the less credible the evidence becomes," Ongkiko said.

Ongkiko also supported their call for a retrial if only it would uncover the masterminds.

The soldier said he hoped Aquino's truth committee materializes and that the congressman would send people from the House committee on human rights to the New Bilibid Prisons to take their statements.

"We are for the truth also. We also pity Noynoy because he lost a father. But our children also lost their fathers when we were jailed. Noynoy was a victim as much as we were victims," the soldier said.

Aquino said earlier that he was more interested in creating a truth committee to give justice to victims of martial law than pursue a retrial of his father's murder case.

Aquino remained firm in his belief that Marcos was the brains behind the killing and that the soldiers were part of the conspiracy. (Star)

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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