ACOSTA: NO BAD BLOOD W/ AQUINOs / RETROSPECT: THE ASSASSINATION OF NINOY
 

MANILA, JANUARY 10, 2011 (GMANEWS TV) Beleaguered Chief Public Attorney Persida Rueda-Acosta (photo at left) on Friday said she harbors no grudges against anyone, including the President himself, following a perceived orchestrated move to oust her from her position.

In a report over GMA News' “24 Oras", Acosta said she "idolizes" President Benigno Aquino III, with whom she previously had a disagreement for playing a pivotal role in the release of former soldiers convicted and serving life imprisonment for the killing of the President's father, former Senator Benigno Aquino Jr.

Acosta said this as she heaved a sigh of relief, following the opinion of the Civil Service Commission that she and her deputies at the Public Attorneys Office (PAO) need not take the career executive service (CES) examination to keep their posts.

"Si Sir Noy, mahal na mahal po ang PAO. Si Sir Noy, idolo ko po siya, dahil alam kong malinis ang kanyang puso," Acosta said in the newscast. (The PAO is very close to Sir Noy’s heart. He is my idol, because I know he has a pure heart.)

In 2009, then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo granted executive clemency to the 10 remaining convicts in the double murder case of Aquino Jr. and Rolando Galman in August 1983, after 26 years in prison. Previous to the pardon, two other convicts, former Sergeants Felizardo Taran Jr. and Rolando de Guzman, were released after serving their sentences.

Members of the Aquino family had assailed the granting of the pardon to the ten convicts, which they described as political vendetta, or Mrs. Arroyo’s attempt to get back at the Aquinos after the late President Corazon Aquino turned into an anti-Arroyo critic from 2005 onwards.

On Thursday, the Department of Justice (DOJ) had issued a legal opinion that top officials of the PAO, including Acosta, may be ineligible for their posts unless they take the CES examination.

On Friday, however, Acosta, whose blood pressure reportedly shot up upon learning of the DOJ’s legal opinion, appeared to be in high spirits as she dispelled speculations of bad blood with the President and Justice Secretary Leila de Lima. “Love ko pa rin siya [de Lima]. Love ko pa rin si Ma'am. Ma'am ko pa rin siya. Ganoon ako magmahal sa aking pinuno (I still love Sec. de Lima, and she is still my Ma’am. That’s the way I hold my superior in high esteem)," Acosta said.

For her part, de Lima said in the newscast that there is nothing personal in the recent controversy on Acosta’s eligibility. It just so happened that the Chief Public Attorney’s position is among those determined by the DOJ as requiring CES eligibility.

“Yung opinion namin, hindi namin sinasabi na gusto naming mapalitan siya [In our opinion, we’re not saying that we want her replaced]. That’s not the issue at all. The issue there is eligibility. So it’s purely a legal issue," de Lima said.

Acosta, a recipient of the Lingkod Bayan Award, the highest Presidential award for outstanding public service, is the youngest yet to hold the position of the Chief Public Attorney, according to the Ateneo de Manila Law School website. She finished her law studies at the Ateneo and the University of the East, and took fourth place in the 1989 bar examinations.—Jerrie M. Abella/JV, GMANews.TV

Noynoy leaves PAO chief's fate to de Lima By Delon Porcalla (philstar.com) Updated January 07, 2011 05:05 PM Comments (14)

MANILA, Philippines – President Aquino is leaving it up to Justice Secretary Leila de Lima to decide whether Public Attorney’s Office (PAO) chief Persida Acosta needs to be booted out of her office for lacking the necessary civil service eligibility for holding such post.

“I leave it up to the secretary of justice, this agency being an attached to the Department of Justice, to resolve the matter,” he told Palace reporters in an informal briefing after his first New Year’s Von D’Honneur at the Malacanang Palace.

Mr. Aquino observed, however, that Acosta’s answer – as he read it from the newspapers – were off tangent, as it did not directly shed light on her capability to lead the agency, but rather only confused the matter even more.

“Parang nabasa ko ho sa dyaryo kanina, hindi ba tinatanong iyung doon sa qualifications attendant to that position. Tapos ang sagot doon, kung sa kanya nanggaling iyan talaga, eh ang layo naman ho yata doon sa tanong,” he said.

The President didn’t answer the query though with regard to Acosta’s claim that Mr. Aquino was merely getting back at her because she was very instrumental in the release of the convicted soldiers who participated in the August 1983 murder of his father, former Sen. Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr.

2009 REPORT FROM ABS-CBN NEWS

Ninoy's son, daughter blast release of dad's killers abs-cbnNEWS.com Posted at 03/05/2009 12:38 AM | Updated as of 03/05/2009 9:28 AM
 
MANILA, The son and a daughter of former senator Benigno "Ninoy" Aquino, Jr. on Wednesday blasted Malacañang’s decision to free their father's killers, both saying the move was skewed and unjust.

Sen. Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III and Kris Aquino both questioned the decision of President Arroyo to free their father's killers.

"In my opinion, there was obstruction of justice, there was perjury that they committed, there was a continuous cover-up of the crime, so it is like they're saying, you can do the crime, and you can find a way to get away with it,” said Benigno III in an interview.

Benigno III said the release of his father’s killers was a “symptom of justice in our society under the administration of [President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo].”

"Let's put it in contrast. The person who stole a coconut, his case needs to be reviewed. Then he was subsequently released. When asked why he stole the coconut, he was given a privilege under the 70-year-rule of President Arroyo. But when it comes to these people who killed my father, who cannot admit to their crimes, they were released first and completely. But, thanks anyway to Mrs. Arroyo," he said.

“As Ninoy’s daughter” Talk show host Kris Aquino, daughter and youngest child of former president Corazon Aquino and the slain former senator, meanwhile said she cannot accept the release of the convicts especially after they continue to not reveal the mastermind behind his father’s assassination.

Speaking "as Ninoy Aquino's daughter," Kris also said that she and her family has accepted that the release is part of the Philippine judicial system, but said they cannot accept the men not revealing the mastermind behind the murders.

"Hindi ko kayang tanggapin sa kalooban ko na hahayaan ko lang sila na magsinungaling ng ganoong klase sa lahat ng tao. Kasi simple lang naman eh: nakulong sila ng 26 years, kung ilang taon man ‘yon, dahil sa isang bagay po -- pinatay nila si Ninoy Aquino," a visibly emotional Kris said during Wednesday evening's live telecast of the entertainment news show "Showbiz News Ngayon" where she co-hosts.

She recalled her experiences when as a little girl, she was visiting her father in a military detention camp during the Martial Law period. The difference, she said, was that her father was incarcerated even without committing an offense but only that the former senator went against then strongman President Ferdinand Marcos.

"Noong August 21, 1983, umuwi ang tatay ko dito. Noong pinapanood ko ‘yong [TV Patrol] report na iyon [on the release of the convicts], Boy, naramdaman ko, bakit parang nakakalimutan ng tao na pinatay ang tatay ko. My dad was killed by those men who were freed today. Alam nating lahat may ibang umutos sa kanila, pero ang point is na-convict sila," Aquino, talking to co-host Boy Abunda, said.

Kris admitted to her co-host Boy Abunda that she got emotional when she was able to watch ABS-CBN TV Patrol ‘World’s report on the release of the convicts.

“Yes Boy . This afternoon you called me, hindi ko pa ‘yan napapanood sa TV Patrol, and you asked me kung meron akong opinion. At sinabi ko na si Noy [Banigno III] na lang ang magsasalita. But then napanood ko po kanina, and honestly noong nanonood ako, nanginig ako, nagalit ako,” admitted Kris during the show.

"We lost my dad August 21, 1983, because those men followed orders to kill my dad. Ngayon na nakalaya na sila - wala na kaming magagawa eh, nakalaya sila - tanggap namin na parte yan ng hustisya dito sa Pilipinas. Pero sana naman, 'wag nating lokohin ang sambayanan," she added.

“Counter the propaganda” Benigno III also said that her mother, former president Corazon Aquino had advised him not to comment anymore. He said, however, that there is a need to counter the “propaganda machinery” of the administration.

[Photo - Former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo who is now the Congresswoman in the second district of Pampanga.]

Banigno III said that all he wanted was for justice to be served. "Of course there are apologists in the propaganda machinery of the other camp, they will say that I am hard-hearted, that I don't know how to forgive. All I am asking, and this is not just for our family, that there should be justice. When you free these people, did they pay for their sins, are they reformed, and are not still dangers to society?" he said.

The former president has yet to issue a statement on the release of the convicts.

26-year incarceration

Department of Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez signed release orders for 10 former soldiers after being imprisoned for 26 years over their involvement in the murder of former Senator Benigno "Ninoy" Aquino, Jr., who was assassinated on August 21, 1983 while alighting from an airplane. The 10 convicts in the Aquino-Galman double murder case were freed from the National Bilibid Prisons in Muntinlupa City.

After receiving a commutation order from Malacañang on Monday, Gonzalez ordered the release of Ruben Aquino, Arnulfo Artales, Romeo Bautista, Jesus Castro, Arnulfo de Mesa, Rodolfo Desolong, Claro Lat, Ernesto Mateo, Filomeno Miranda, and Rogelio Moreno, all of whom were implicated in the Aquino and Rolando Galman double murder case.

Persida Acosta, chief of the Public Attorney's Office (PAO), said he received the release orders. She said the former soldiers deserved to be released after being incarcerated for 26 years.

The ten released convicts were at the PAO office in Quezon City for debriefing after undergoing medical tests for their health conditions.

As of posting, only Lat and De Mesa were still at the PAO office while the eight others have left supposedly to return to their families. With reports from Marieton Pacheco, Lynda Jumilla, and Ron Gagalac, ABS-CBN News

"Nakulong at nakalaya na ang mga nasentensyahan sa Aquino-Galman double murder. Pero hindi pa rin alam hanggang ngayon kung sino ang utak sa pagpatay ng bayaning si Ninoy Aquino." Magba-Bandila si Tony Velasquez. Bandila, Miyerkules, Marso 4, 2009.

IN RETROSPECT: THE ASSASSINATION OF BENIGNO 'NINOY' AQUINO, JR

[PHOTO - The bodies of Ninoy Aquino (in white) and Rolando Galman (in blue) on the apron of Manila International Airport on August 21, 1983]

The assassination of Benigno Aquino, Jr., former Philippine Senator, took place on Sunday, August 21, 1983, at the tarmac of Manila International Airport.

Aquino, also a longtime political opponent of Philippine president Ferdinand Marcos, had just landed in his home country after a 3-year self exile in the United States when he was shot in the head while being escorted from an aircraft to a vehicle that was waiting to transport him to prison. Also killed was Rolando Galman, who was later implicated in Aquino's murder.

In myriad ways Aquino bedeviled the Marcos regime, chipping away at its monolithic facade. His most celebrated speech, "A Pantheon for Imelda", was delivered on February 10, 1969. He assailed the P50 million Cultural Center, the first project of First Lady Imelda Marcos as extravagant, and dubbed it "a monument to shame" and calling its creator, a megalomaniac, with a penchant to captivate. By the end of the day, the country's broadsheets had blared that he labeled the President's wife, his cousin Paz's former ward, the Philippines' Eva Peron.

[Photo - Imelda Romualdez was born in 1929 in Manila, the Philippines. She grew up in the southern province of Leyte before returning to Manila when she was in her 20s, where she met rising political star, Ferdinand Marcos in the Congressional cafeteria and married him 11 days later. As she recalls, the common opinion was that “Whoever will not marry this guy is stupid.” ]

President Marcos, who came to power by uniting the votes from both the north and the south, by his 11-day courtship and marriage to a Imelda Romualdez thought as a political gambit, was outraged. He called Aquino "a congenital liar". The First Lady's friends angrily accused Aquino of being "ungallant". These so-called "fiscalisation" tactics of Aquino quickly became his trademark in the Senate.

Benigno 'Ninoy' Aquino, Jr (Photo at right) was seen as a contender by many for the highest office in the land, the presidency. Among insiders at the palace, Aquino was a threat far bigger than expected. He knew too much about the president's wife before her rise to power, as a daughter of the impoverished Vicente Orestes Romualdez branch (the third and most junior cadet branch) as compared to the propertied Miguel Romualdez branch and the learned Norberto Romualdez branch--- the only Romualdezes that Manilans outside of Leyte knew.

This contradicted greatly to how Ferdinand Marcos presented his wife and how his machinery capitalized an idyllic love match, even creating a movie, "Iginuhit ng Tadhana" starring Gloria Romero They feared the public would contend the president won the recent elections by outright fraud. Also, as the husband of Cory Aquino, his negative pronouncements against the Marcos government was regarded as personal, not political. Many still remember the sight of a hapless Imelda Romualdez made to wear an embarrassing flapper dress in one of the grand parties hosted by Pedro Cojuangco (Cory Aquino's brother). She went home to Speaker Romualdez's Dapitan Avenue Extension, Quezon City home to the arms of her uncle's wife Pacing, feeling slighted by Pampanga's richest and powerful.

Surveys during those times showed that he was the number one choice among Filipinos, since President Marcos by law was prohibited from serving another term. Ninoy of the Liberal Party, was a guaranteed winner in the next presidential elections, had there been one.

PLAZA MIRANDA BOMBING

It was not until the Plaza Miranda bombing however—on August 21, 1971 (12 years to the day before Ninoy Aquino's own assassination)—that the pattern of direct confrontation between Marcos and Aquino emerged.

At 9:15 p.m., at the kick-off rally of the Liberal Party, the candidates had formed a line on a makeshift platform and were raising their hands as the crowd applauded. The band played, a fireworks display drew all eyes, when suddenly there were two loud explosions that obviously were not part of the show.

In an instant the stage became a scene of wild carnage. The police later discovered two fragmentation grenades that had been thrown at the stage by "unknown persons". Nine were killed and several dozens injured, including Senators Jovito Salonga and Eva Estrada Kalaw. Senator Jovito Salonga was one of the worst hit of the victims. It took three major operations in the first twelve hours after the bombing for a team of doctors to save his life. Salonga has carried the effects and scars of that bombing the rest of his life. He is blind in one eye, deaf in one ear, and claims to have over a hundred shrapnels in his body.. Aquino was absent at the incident.

Although suspicions pointed to the Nacionalistas (the political party of Marcos), Marcos allies sought to deflect this by insinuating that, perhaps, Aquino might have had a hand in the blast in a bid to eliminate his potential rivals within the party. Later, the Marcos government presented "evidence" of the bombings as well as an alleged threat of a communist insurgency, suggesting that the bombings were the handiwork of the growing New People's Army. Marcos made this a pretext to suspend the right of habeas corpus, vowed that the killers would be apprehended within 48 hours, and arrested a score of known "Maoists" on general principle.

[Photo - President Ferdinand Marcos and Army General Fabian Ver: The Plaza Miranda Bombing - Pres. Marcos blamed the communists for the bloody crime. Speaking for the Philippine Communist Party, its founder Jose Ma. Sison denied having anything to do with it and in fact condemned the bombing. Another suspect to emerge during the subsequent investigation was General Fabian Ver, head of Marcos’s Presidential Security Unit (PSU).]

Ironically, the police captured one of the bombers, who was identified as a sergeant of the firearms and explosive section of the Philippine Constabulary, a military arm of the government. According to Aquino, this man was later snatched from police custody by military personnel and never seen again.

[PHOTO- With Cory, Ninoy Aquino during his trial in a military court. Benigno 'Ninoy' Aquino, Jr  was a former senator (Liberal Party), governor and mayor of the Philippines. He was the leading oppositionist of the former president Ferdinand Marcos (Nacionalista Party)]

President Marcos declared martial law on September 21, 1972 and he went on air to broadcast his declaration on midnight of September 23.

Aquino was one of the first to be arrested and imprisoned on trumped-up charges of murder, illegal possession of firearms and subversion. He was tried before Military Commission No. 2 headed by Major-General José Syjuco.

Martial law, hunger strike

[Photos - Ninoy's detention cell: The Fort Bonifacio cell where former senator Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr. stayed for eight years has been preserved by the military to remember his heroism. INQUIRER PHOTO]

On April 4, 1975, Aquino announced that he was going on a hunger strike, a fast to the death to protest the injustices of his military trial.

Ten days through his hunger strike, he instructed his lawyers to withdraw all motions he had submitted to the Supreme Court. As weeks went by, he subsisted solely on salt tablets, sodium bicarbonate, amino acids, and two glasses of water a day. Even as he grew weaker, suffering from chills and cramps, soldiers forcibly dragged him to the military tribunal's session.

His family and hundreds of friends and supporters heard Mass nightly at the Santuario de San José in Greenhills, San Juan, praying for his survival. Near the end, Aquino's weight had dropped from 54 to 36 kilos. Aquino nonetheless was able to walk throughout his ordeal. On May 13, 1975, on the 40th day, his family and several priests and friends, begged him to end his fast, pointing out that even Christ fasted only for 40 days. He acquiesced, confident that he had made a symbolic gesture. But he remained in prison, and the trial continued, drawn out for several years. On November 25, 1977, the Commission found Aquino guilty of all charges and sentenced him to death by firing squad. However, Aquino and many others believed that Marcos, ever the shrewd strategist, would not let him suffer a death that would surely make Aquino a martyr.

Cory's Dad and the Hacienda Luisita

Meanwhile, his father-in-law, Jose Cojuangco, weak amidst losing his prized automobile empire and banks and the harassment his children received for being associated with the Aquinos, died, also on August 21, 1976. Before he succumbed to death he had attempted to yet again try to speak to President Marcos through his attorney's son, Juan Ponce Enrile. He was ready to exchange Hacienda Luisita for Ninoy's release, but no audience was granted for him. Ever mindful of her siblings, Cory privately urged her father that they would just rather stay away so as not to inconvenience the Cojuangcos. When the ailing Conjuangco died, Ninoy, still incarcerated in the military jails, was not allowed to attend the funeral of the other political pillar of Tarlac.

1978 elections, bypass surgery, exile

In 1978, from his prison cell, he was allowed to take part in the elections for Interim Batasang Pambansa (Parliament). Although his friends, former Senators Gerry Roxas and Jovito Salonga, preferred to boycott the elections, Aquino urged his supporters to organize and run 21 candidates in Metro Manila.

LABAN

Ninoy's political party, dubbed Lakas ng Bayan ("People's Power"), was born. The party's acronym was "LABAN" (in Tagalog). He was allowed one television interview on Face the Nation (hosted by Ronnie Nathanielsz) and proved to a startled and impressed populace that imprisonment had neither dulled his rapier-like tongue nor dampened his fighting spirit. Foreign correspondents and diplomats asked what would happen to the LABAN ticket. People agreed with him that his party would win overwhelmingly in an honest election. Not surprisingly, all his candidates lost due to widespread election fraud.

(Photo - Photo from the Aquino family library shows former Sen. Benigno Aquino Jr. being examined by military doctors in his Fort Bonifacio cell after he suffered a heart attack. PHILSTAR)

In mid-March 1980, Aquino suffered a heart attack, possibly the result of seven years in prison, mostly in a solitary cell which must have taken a heavy toll on his gregarious personality. He was transported to the Philippine Heart Center where he suffered a second heart attack. ECG and other tests showed that he had a blocked artery. Philippine surgeons were reluctant to do a coronary bypass because it could involve them in a controversy.

Additionally, Aquino refused to submit himself to Philippine doctors, fearing possible Marcos "duplicity"; he preferred to go to the United States for the procedure or else return to his cell at Fort Bonifacio and die. He also appeared in the "700 Club" television ministry of Pat Robertson where he narrated his spiritual life and one point in time that he accepted "Christ as his Lord and Savior" and became a born-again Christian.

On May 8, 1980, Imelda Marcos (photo at left) made an unannounced visit to Aquino at his hospital room. She asked him if he would like to leave that evening for the U.S., but not before agreeing on two covenants: 1) that if he left, he would return; 2) while in the U.S., he would not speak out against the Marcos regime. She then ordered General Fabian Ver and Mel Mathay to provide passports and plane tickets for the Aquino family. Aquino was shoved in a closed van, rushed to his home on Times Street to pack, hustled to the airport and put on a plane bound for the U.S. that same day accompanied by his family.

Aquino was operated on at a hospital in Dallas, Texas. He made a quick recovery, was walking within two weeks and making plans to fly to Damascus, Syria to meet with Muslim leaders, which he did five weeks later. When he reiterated that he was returning to the Philippines, he received a surreptitious message from the Marcos government saying that he was now granted an extension of his "medical furlough". Eventually, Aquino decided to renounce his two covenants with Malacañang "because of the dictates of higher national interest". After all, Aquino added, "a pact with the devil is no pact at all".

Aquino spent three years in self-exile, living with his family in Newton, a suburb of Boston, Massachusetts. On fellowship grants from Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, he worked on the manuscripts of two books and gave a series of lectures in school halls, classrooms and auditoriums. He traveled extensively in the U.S. delivering speeches critical of the Marcos government.

Marcos and his officials, aware of Aquino's growing popularity even in his absence, in turn accused Aquino of being the "Mad Bomber" and allegedly masterminding a rash of bombings that had rocked Metro Manila in 1981 and 1982. Aquino denied that he was advocating a bloody revolution, but warned that radicalized oppositionists were threatening to use violence soon. He urged Marcos to "heed the voice of conscience and moderation", and declared himself willing to lay his own life on the line.

Planning return

[Photo - THE 'NINOY AQUINO' FUNERAL IN MANILA. The assassination transformed Ninoy Aquino into an "idol". The battlecry "Ituloy ang laban ni Ninoy!" and "Ninoy, hindi ka nag-iisa" were heard from anti-Marcos demonstrators that erupted in Metro Manila and other urban centers in the country.]

Throughout his years of expatriation, Aquino was always aware that his life in the U.S. was temporary. He never stopped affirming his eventual return even as he enjoyed American hospitality and a peaceful life with his family on American soil. After spending 7 years and 7 months in prison, Aquino's finances were in ruins. Making up for the lost time as the family's breadwinner, he toured America; attending symposiums, lectures, and giving speeches in freedom rallies opposing the Marcos dictatorship. The most memorable was held at the Wilshire Ebell Theater in Los Angeles, California on February 15, 1981.

In the first quarter of 1983, Aquino received news about the deteriorating political situation in his country and the rumored declining health of President Marcos (due to lupus). He believed that it was expedient for him to speak to Marcos and present to him his rationale for the country's return to democracy, before extremists took over and made such a change impossible. Moreover, his years of absence made his allies worry that the Filipinos might have resigned themselves to Marcos' strongman rule and that without his leadership the centrist opposition would die a natural death.

Aquino decided to go back to the Philippines, fully aware of the dangers that awaited him. Warned that he would either be imprisoned or killed, Aquino answered, "if it's my fate to die by an assassin's bullet, so be it. But I cannot be petrified by inaction, or fear of assassination, and therefore stay in the side..."

His family, however, learned from a Philippine Consulate official that there were orders from Ministry of Foreign Affairs not to issue any passports for them. At that time, their visas had expired and their renewal had been denied. They therefore formulated a plan for Ninoy to fly alone (to attract less attention), with the rest of the family to follow him after two weeks. Despite the government's ban on issuing him a passport, Aquino acquired one with the help of Rashid Lucman, a former Mindanao legislator and founder of the Bangsamoro Liberation Front, a Moro separatist group against Marcos. It carried the alias Marcial Bonifacio (Marcial for martial law and Bonifacio for Fort Bonifacio, his erstwhile prison).

He eventually obtained a legitimate passport from a sympathizer working in a Philippine consulate. The Marcos government warned all international airlines that they would be denied landing rights and forced to return if they tried to fly Ninoy to the Philippines. Aquino insisted that it was his natural right as a citizen to come back to his homeland, and that no government could prevent him from doing so. He left Logan International Airport on August 13, 1983, took a circuitous route home from Boston, via Los Angeles to Singapore.

In Singapore, then Tunku Ibrahim Ismail of Johor met Aquino upon his arrival in Singapore and later brought him to Johor to meet with other Malaysian leaders. Once in Johor, Aquino met up with Tunku Ibrahim's father, Sultan Iskandar, who was a close friend to Aquino. He then left for Hong Kong and on to Taipei. He had chosen Taipei as the final stopover when he learned the Philippines had severed diplomatic ties with the Republic of China (Taiwan). This made him feel more secure; the Taiwan authorities could pretend they were not aware of his presence. There would also be a couple of Taiwanese friends accompanying him. From Taipei he flew to Manila on China Airlines Flight 811.

Marcos wanted Aquino to stay out of politics, however Ninoy asserted his willingness to suffer the consequences declaring, "the Filipino is worth dying for." He wished to express an earnest plea for Marcos to step down, for a peaceful regime change and a return to democratic institutions. Anticipating the worst, at an interview in his suite at the Taipei Grand Hotel, he revealed that he would be wearing a bullet-proof vest, but he also said that "it's only good for the body, but for the head there's nothing else we can do." Sensing his own doom, he told the journalists accompanying him on the flight, "You have to be ready with your hand camera because this action can become very fast. In a matter of 3 or 4 minutes it could be all over, and I may not be able to talk to you again after this."

In his last formal statement that he wasn't able to deliver, he said, "I have returned to join the ranks of those struggling to restore our rights and freedom through violence. I seek no confrontation."

Assassination

(Photo- Ninoy's slain body, Sunday, August 21, 1983, at the tarmac of Manila International Airport)

Assassination of Benigno Aquino, Jr.

Aquino was assassinated on August 21, 1983 when he was shot in the head after returning to the country. At the time, bodyguards were assigned to him by the Marcos government. A subsequent investigation produced controversy but no definitive results. After the Marcos government was overthrown, another investigation found sixteen defendants guilty. They were all sentenced to life in prison. Over the years, some were released, and the last one was let out in March 2009.

Another man on the plane, Rolando Galman, was shot dead on-board shortly after Aquino was killed. The Marcos government claimed Galman was the triggerman in Aquino's assassination, but evidence suggests this was not the case.

Aquino was elected to the Philippine Senate in 1967 and shortly thereafter began speaking out against Marcos' authoritarian rule. He was imprisoned on trumped up charges shortly after Marcos' 1972 declaration of martial law. In 1980, he suffered a heart attack in prison and was allowed to leave the country two months later by Marcos' wife, Imelda. He spent the next three years in exile near Boston before deciding to return to the Philippines.

[Photo - SOC RODRIGO LOOKING AT NINOY'S NEWLY ASSASSINATED BODY: In 1983, Rodrigo was one of the first people allowed to look at Ninoy Aquino’s body. For their dissent against President Ferdinand Marcos, Rodrigo (a Nacionalista Party Senator of President Ramon Magsaysay) along with Ninoy Aquino and many others, was incarcerated during upon the declaration of Martial Law in 1972. During this time in jail, Rodrigo kept the faith of fellow detainees alive as he led nightly prayers of the rosary. Ninoy Aquino would treasure of the crucifixes that Rodrigo gave him during this time. Rodrigo was released after three months but was detained two more times. In 1978, for writing Tagalog poems attacking the Marcos dictatorship, and in 1982, for his anti-Marcos poems in the We Forum and the Philippine Star. (INQUIRER)]

Aquino ssassination is credited with transforming the opposition to the Marcos regime from a small, isolated movement into a nationally unified crusade. It is also credited with thrusting Aquino's widow, Corazon, into the public spotlight and her running for president in the snap election of 1986.

[Photo - "It is true you cannot eat freedom and you cannot power machinery with democracy. But then neither can political prisoners turn on the light in the cells of a dictatorship". ~ Corazon Aquino, 11th President of the Philippines]

Though Marcos was officially declared the winner of the election, widespread allegations of fraud and illegal tampering on Marcos' behalf is credited with sparking the People Power Revolution, which resulted in Marcos fleeing the country and conceding the presidency to Corazon Aquino.

Though many including the Aquino family maintain that Marcos ordered Aquino's assassination, this was never definitively proven. An official government investigation ordered by Marcos shortly after the assassination led to murder charges against 25 military personnel and one civilian; all were acquitted by the Sandiganbayan (special court).

After Marcos was ousted, another government investigation under Corazon Aquino's administration led to a retrial and the conviction of 16 military personnel, all of whom were sentenced to life imprisonment. Since their conviction, one of the convicts was pardoned, three died in prison, and the remainder had their sentences commuted at various times; the last convicts were released from prison in 2009.

[Photo - Imelda sings to her ailing husband in Hawaii]

WRAP-UP: OTHER HISTORIANS reported that the Aquino assassination gave Marcos a bad image abroad, Public opinion in the United States went against Marcos. President Reagan of the United States cancelled his state visit to the Philippines.

On October 14, 1983, President Marcos issued PD 1886 creating a five-man independent body to investigate the Aquino assassination. Headed by Mrs. Corazon Juliano Agrava, a retired Court of Appeals Justice, the investigation body came to be known as the Agrava-Fact-Finding Board (AFFB). The other members of the board were businessman Dante Santos, labor leader Ernesto Herrera, lawyer Luciano Salazar, and educator Amado Dizon.

The members of the AFFB, however, identified 25 military men and a civilian as participants in the plot. Those identified include AFP Chief of Staff General Fabian C. Ver, Jam. General Prospero Olivas of the PC Metropolitan Command (METROCOM) and Gen. Custodio.

President Marcos referred the two reports to the Sandiganbayan for trial. The trial began in Feb. 1985, and was presided over by Sandiganbayan Presiding Justice Manuel Pamaran. This trial became known as "Trial of the Century".

On December 2, 1985, the Sandiganbayan handed down its decision. The tribunal ruled that the 26 accused were innocent and that it was Galman who was hired by the communist who killed Aquino.


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