After 25 years, the question still remains unanswered: Who ordered the assassination of former Senator Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino on August 21, 1983?
I previously wrote that Ferdinand Marcos was the mastermind because the military precision of the assassination could not have occurred without the knowledge and involvement of Gen. Fabian Ver, who would not have done anything without the Dictator’s knowledge and approval.
But could someone else have been the actual mastermind? Let’s review the facts.
Ninoy Aquino’s plane had just landed in Manila on August 21, 1983, on a flight from Taipei when Philippine soldiers entered the plane, approached Ninoy and placed him under their custody and control.
The soldiers hustled him through the crowded aisle and out the airport door, which they immediately shut to prevent anyone from following them, to a staircase.
A few seconds later, shots were fired and Ninoy’s lifeless body lay on the concrete tarmac of the Manila International Airport.
About 16 soldiers (no officers!) were charged with conspiring to kill Ninoy. “The forensic evidence submitted to the trial court,” columnist Antonio Abaya wrote, “established that the trajectory of the fatal bullet was ‘forward, downward and medially,’ the bullet entering Aquino’s skull near his left ear and exiting at his chin. This was consistent with the gun being fired at Aquino by someone behind him who was at a higher plane than he was, such as someone who was one or two steps behind him on a downward flight of stairs.”
Rolando Galman, the hapless patsy brought by his military handlers through tight security at the airport, was positioned at the foot of the staircase. After Aquino was shot once from behind, the soldiers pointed their assault rifles at Galman and shot him several times to make sure he was dead.
After a military van appeared on the tarmac, soldiers quickly loaded the bodies of both Aquino and Galman into the van that drove them to a military camp. Several hours passed before the corpses were delivered to a coroner for examination.
Barely eight hours later, Marcos announced to the world that “communist hit man” Rolando Galman had killed Ninoy Aquino.
But no one believed Marcos. A fact-finding commission Marcos formed in response to world outrage determined that 16 soldiers were responsible, and they were so charged before a trial court. After the 16 soldiers were convicted of conspiracy in the killing of Ninoy and sentenced to Muntinglupa penitentiary, one of them, M/Sgt Pablo Martinez, became a born-again Christian and decided to confess and reveal what the other soldiers would not.
In his affidavit, Martinez declared that he was assigned by Col. Romeo Ochoco, then-deputy commander of the Aviation Security Command (Avsecom); Brig. Gen. Romeo Gatan of the Philippine Constabulary; and Herminio Gosuico, a civilian businessman from Nueva Ecija, to escort Galman from a hotel near the airport to the tarmac for the Ninoy’s arrival from Taipei.
Witnesses at the Agrava Fact-Finding Commission had previously identified Gosuico, Air Force Col. Arturo Custodio and two others as the men who fetched Galman from his home in San Miguel, Bulacan, on August 17, 1983.
Martinez had previously served under Col. Ochoa, who personally recruited him for the special assignment. Martinez wrote that he and Galman were briefed on the assassination plot at the Carlston Hotel near the domestic airport on the night of August 20, 1983. Briefing them on the details of the plot were Gen. Gatan, Col. Ochoco and Gosuico. That evening, Col. Ochoco gave Galman a .357 Magnum revolver, while Martinez was given a Smith & Wesson .38-caliber revolver.
On the morning of August 21, 1983, just before Martinez brought Galman to the airport, Galman’s mistress, Anna Oliva, and her sister Catherine, were brought to the Carlston Hotel to have breakfast with Galman. The two women were last seen at their workplace on September 4, 1983, when armed men picked them up. Their corpses were later exhumed from a sugarcane field in Capas, Tarlac, in 1988 in a hacienda reportedly owned by Danding Cojuangco.
Galman’s wife, Lina Lazaro, was picked up at her home by two men on January 29, 1984, and was never seen again. During the Agrava Fact-Finding inquiry, Gosuico was identified by Galman’s son and step-daughter as one of the two men who picked up their mother. Gosuico was a known business associate of Danding Cojuangco.
Despite all the testimonies implicating them, neither Col. Ochoco, nor Gen. Gatan nor Gosuico were ever charged with involvement in the conspiracy to kill Ninoy.
Pres. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s current Justice Secretary, Raul Gonzalez, was a Sandiganbayan prosecutor under President Cory Aquino when he came upon a witness with crucial evidence who was willing to testify under certain conditions. Gonzalez went to Cory in Malacanang to tell her that the witness wanted protection for herself and her three kids. Before Cory would agree to the terms, she asked who the witness would name as the mastermind.
When Gonzalez answered that she would name her first cousin, Pres. Cory reportedly responded, “Impossible! It cannot be!” She refused the demand of the witness who eventually disappeared.
Gen. Romeo Gatan died of a heart ailment at an unspecified date. Hermie Gosuico died under mysterious circumstances leading Abaya to ask: “Did he die of illness or accident, or was he eliminated because he knew too much?”
Of the original conspirators named by Martinez, only Col. Ochoco is still alive, reportedly living with family somewhere in Stockton, Calif.
A documentary on the assassination of Ninoy Aquino, prepared by the Foundation for Worldwide People Power, will be shown on Thursday, August 21, at 7:30 p.m. at the Veterans War Memorial (400 Van Ness Avenue) in San Francisco sponsored by the Ninoy Aquino Movement (NAM).
You’re invited. Before the showing, you are also invited to a Candlelight Vigil and March at 6 p.m. at the steps of the San Francisco City Hall.