IT WAS a question everybody had long wanted to ask of Gen. Fabian Ver, former chief of staff of the late strongman Ferdinand Marcos, but was afraid to do so.
Jun Camcam (left, in dark blue shirt) with younger brother Jonathan
In an interview with ABS-CBN News, Jun Camcam, eldest son of banker Edna Camcam, the common-law wife of the general, recalled when he threw this question one afternoon to his father, who was then living in exile in Mannheim, Germany. The family fled the country at the height of the four-day People Power Revolution in February 1986.
Jun, then a fresh graduate of New York University, boldly confronted his father of the question that had been nagging him sometime in 1988.
“Dad, everybody is saying you killed Ninoy,” Jun told his father over merienda. “Did you kill him?” He was looking straight into his father's eyes, he said.
Ninoy was former Sen. Benigno Aquino Jr, whose assassination on August 21, 1983 triggered massive demonstrations against the Marcos administration, culminating in his ouster via the February 1986 revolution.
Jun got an answer just as quick as he asked for it, he said.
“How could you even say that?” Ver shot back. “He was my brother at the University of the Philippines. And we were friends.”
Jun recalled their years in exile near Mannheim Germany on the eve of the EDSA's 28th year celebration. He spent many Christmases & birthdays reuniting with his exiled parents in Germany, commuting between New York & Frankfurt, he said.
Ver was said to have told his son that Ninoy was in fact given special treatment while in military detention. "I gave him almost everything he asked for--special food, special visits by family & friends. We even allowed him to get out from time to time,” the son quoted the father as telling him.
“We allowed him to attend the birthday party of [Ramon] Monching Mitra at a Makati condominium on condition that he would be given military escorts and be brought back by midnight.”
And when Ninoy's health deteriorated, Ver reportedly said: "I pleaded his case to President Marcos while Ninoy was at the Heart Center: 'Sir, Ninoy needs immediate medical attention, and we need to send him to Boston for his doctors. Mr President, if anything happens to Ninoy in our jail the people will blame us, if he dies on our watch, the people will point the finger at us."
Marcos agreed, and he and former First Lady Imelda Marcos raced against time sending Ninoy to the United States. “And they quickly sent Ninoy packing for Boston. He left in such a hurry that the general borrowed some US dollars from my mother to use for Ninoy's plane ticket and allowance,” Jun said.
Ver asked his son: "So why would I protect Ninoy and, in effect, protect the President & myself, but only to later endanger it, by ordering his death, in broad daylight?"
Ver was said to have told his son that he might not have been a saint, but neither was he dumb. "I had nothing to gain and everything to lose by Ninoy's death on Philippine soil," he quoted the father as telling him.
“I know, whatever happens to Ninoy, it would be blamed on us'... and he diverted the conversation: 'Tignan mo yang Plaza Miranda, kami ang pinagbitangan noon.' Of course, I was too young to remember Plaza Miranda, but I listened to him and directed our conversation back to Ninoy,” he said.
“Dad has a habit of answering a simple question with a long lesson in history. You have to be patient. He will eventually get to the answer and in the end, you will have a comprehensive picture of history,” he added.
Consequently, when a news report reached Germany saying that Army Col. Victor Corpuz, a soldier-turned-communist rebel-turned-soldier, had admitted in a letter to a prominent newsman that the communists were behind the Plaza Miranda bombings in 1971, which was also blamed on the Marcos military, Ver felt vindicated. “Look at it, son. The truth will set us free.'"
WHO KILLED NINOY?
So who killed Ninoy? The son had no idea.
After a bible study in 2006 at Edna's house in North Forbes, Aquino's sister, former Sen. Tessie Oreta, asked Marcos's widow, former First Lady Imelda Marcos, and Jun's mother Edna if they knew who killed Ninoy.
The three traded information that ended up in a dead end. Edna asked Tessie: “Why don't you ask your sister in-law? With all the power she had, surely she could wrap up this investigation." The three women are now friends.
Ver died in Bangkok in November 1998 and was later buried in Sarrat, Ilocos Norte, ending years of life on the run since the 1986 revolution.
Marcos died in September 1989; his body has yet to be buried. Aquino's widow died in August 2009, widely regarded as democratic icon.
Now in his 40s and active in Victory church as a lay leader, Jun said he remembered this story only because of the EDSA celebration, hoping that it might trigger a reconciliation among those the revolution has left behind.
"It's time to forgive and bury the hatchet for the sake of our nation and the people,” he said.
“Too much pain has been inflicted on both camps, needlessly. And the recent 'Yolanda' aftermath showing that the wounds of Ninoy are still not healed in the minds of [DILG Secretary] Mar Roxas and the President and [Tacloban City] Mayor Alfred Romualdez. The people are suffering for it,” he said.
“It is my prayer that, in search of truth and justice, that God would bind up these wounds and bring healing and peace and unity to our nation,” he added.