Today marks the 32st anniversary of the assassination of opposition leader Ninoy Aquino, an event that changed the course of Philippine history. Newspapers’ front pages tomorrow will be filled with photos of President Aquino 2rd and his sisters grieving at their father’s grave. There would be eulogies to the martyr whose death triggered, as the Yellow narrative puts it, the fall of the Dark Lord.
However, since four years ago, I’ve thought something’s terribly wrong with such photos, and with all the paeans.
There is one man who has all the resources and moral standing to put at peace Ninoy’s spirit by determining conclusively who ordered the assassination.
This is Ninoy’s son, President Benigno Aquino 3rd.
But Pres. Aquino hasn’t lifted a finger to bring closure to his father’s ruthless assassination. This is despite his five years of being the most powerful man in the country–in fact, in his first two years in office, one of the most popular presidents–and so powerful that he has been able to remove the Supreme Court Chief Justice, incarcerate the former president on flimsy grounds, throw three powerful senators to jail, and have the entire Congress under his thumb.
Aquino is known to be vengeful against those who have slighted him in the most minor manner. But this trait obviously doesn’t apply to his father’s murderers.
Aquino’s seeming lack of concern over his father’s murder indicates that either there is something deeply wrong in this person’s psyche, or that there is something terribly embarrassing in the assassination that has been kept so secret that even the victim’s powerful family has refused to uncover its mastermind.
It has been a shame on us as a nation, and represents the heights of our country’s hypocrisy in honoring Ninoy Aquino, that after 32 years, the conspirators who ordered the assassination haven’t been identified, much less convicted.
Nobody even seems to be even interested in finding out. The highest-ranking officer convicted for the crime was Aviation Security Command General Luther Custodio, who died in 1991. The rest of those convicted consisted of one captain, one lieutenant, and – talk of a class society – 13 sergeants and corporals.
The investigation and legal proceedings undertaken by the Sandiganbayan that led to the September 1990 conviction of these 16 military men were all undertaken at the height of the popularity and power of President Corazon Aquino, who could have left no stone unturned to identify and bring to justice her husband’s real killers: the person or the group of persons who ordered the assassination.
What kind of nation are we to fool ourselves that these military men acted on their own, and that there were no powerful personalities who ordered them to undertake an operation perfectly executed, without a single witness even with a phalanx of foreign correspondents accompanying Ninoy?
Could it be another – even the most shameful – demonstration that this nation is run by a single cabal we call the economic-political elite, that even the administration headed by Aquino’s widow wouldn’t uncover the brains behind the assassination since he is a member of this elite?
Cory’s apparent disinterest when she was president in getting to the bottom of her husband’s murder was viewed as an understandable, even laudable, above-the-fray stance of the Saint of Democracy. More cynical observers felt, however, that she was afraid to discover (or that she even already knew) that the mastermind could be Marcos crony and tycoon Edgardo Cojuangco, her cousin. (Cojuangco has vehemently denied such accusation.)
Aquino’s brother the late Agapito in 1990 right after the Sandiganbayan decision was issued told the New York Times: “They have not convicted the mastermind. But the mastermind, I believe, is already resting in peace.” He was obviously referring to Marcos, who died in 1989. But why couldn’t he even identify the strongman?
‘’It is best to leave this episode behind. We have to move on and continue working for the rehabilitation of our country,’’ he said. An assassination that changed the country, and he was saying the nation should just leave it behind, like a bad dream?
An explanation kind to Cory claimed that if she had pursued Cojuangco for the crime, the oligarch could have joined and funded the many coup attempts against her rule, and that she chose to sacrifice her personal wish—to avenge her husband—for the sake of the country ‘s political stability.
However, her son certainly can’t invoke such excuses now to justify his disinterest in finding out who ordered his father’s murder.
A huge lacuna in our nation’s history is crying out to be filled, as mysterious as why first his widow and now his son seems to have no interest in finding out and expose who ordered the head of their family killed.
In the case of the mysterious assassination of another president, the United States’ John F. Kennedy, the trail had gone totally cold after nightclub owner Jack Ruby, who killed the alleged assassin Lee Harvey Oswald, died in prison four years later in 1967.
In contrast, in Ninoy’s case, Air Force Sergeant Pablo Martinez — one of those convicted – in separate interviews with two journalists admitted his role as team leader of the assassination force, and was willing to bare all. Martinez provided leads to solve the mystery, even identifying who ordered the assassination.
Martinez alleged that former Philippine Constabulary Maj. Romeo Gatan, a businessman named Hermilo Gosuico, former Air Force Col. Romeo Ochoco, and Air Force Capt. Felipe Valerio had planned the operation to assassinate Ninoy. None of these people had been convicted. They have vanished, with unconfirmed reports that they have migrated either to the US or Australia.
Martinez was killed in 2014 when the bike he was riding was bumped by a car.
While Aquino has all but forgotten his father’s murder, have the masterminds of the assassination been making sure that all trails of the evil deed that could lead to them are forever erased?
Thirteen of the soldiers convicted are still alive and could have been persuaded by the president of the Republic to tell everything they know. They could have even been convinced to disclose who has been generously taking care of their families financially in the 31 years they’ve been in prison.
President Aquino could have even for instance ordered the National Historical Commission to investigate the assassination for the sake of our history books. It could have written an official report to put in the books that the brains haven’t been brought to justice, in order to counter the Sandiganbayan decision which in effect concluded that the murder was merely a failure of military men to secure Aquino from a communist hit man.
The martyr’s son has done nothing. How can Aquino keep wearing that yellow ribbon on his chest, when he has done nothing to solve the crime it signifies?
How can we be proud of a nation whose two presidents, one the widow and the other the son, had not bothered to bring justice to a hero who had declared that the Filipino is worth dying for?
Or maybe it would be more realistic to hope that Senator Ferdinand Marcos, Jr.—who aspires to lead this nation—would provide evidence to prove that it wasn’t his father who ordered Aquino’s murder, as most Filipinos believe the dictator in fact did.
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A version of this article “His powerful son has done nothing to solve his murder” (Manila Times, August 22, 2014) has been one of the most widely read articles in this newspaper’s Internet version, viewed, according to our web statistics, by 60,000 Filipinos, and 7,200 even “liking” or “sharing” it in their Facebook accounts. Neither Aquino nor his spokespersons have, however, responded to the article’s serious allegations. I hope they do now. Details on what Martinez disclosed can be found in that article.
FB: Bobi Tiglao