MANILA - Twenty-six years after the twin murders of Sen. Benigno "Ninoy" Aquino Jr. and his alleged assassin, Rolando Galman, there is still no closure to the double-murder case that has spanned four administrations and put 16 men in jail.
Aquino was assassinated on Aug. 21 1983 upon his arrival at the then Manila International Airport. On September 28, 1990, the Sandiganbayan court found guilty 16 military men including Avsecom chief Brig. Gen. Luther Custodio for the murders of Aquino and Galman.
Of the 16, three have died while the remaining 13 were freed by subsequent administrations.
On Friday several of the convicted murderers met again at the Public Attorney's Office to celebrate their freedom, which was granted by President Arroyo earlier this year. All of the convicts still insist that they had nothing to do with Aquino's murder despite evidence to the contrary.
Of the 13, only Master Sgt. Pablo Martinez revealed that he knew something about the plan to murder Ninoy.
Martinez said several people close to the Marcoses plotted to assassinate Ninoy because of the threat he posed to the dictator. He said it was he who let Galman into the tarmac.
"The last instruction given to me by Maj. General Romeo Gatan was that I should pick up the gun if [Galman] failed to shoot," he said. Gatan was the former chief of the Philippine Constabulary Northern Luzon Command.
Sgt. Arnulfo de Mesa said he was one of Ninoy's escorts as he descended from the plane. He said Ninoy had just stepped off the tarmac when Galman slipped in from behind and shot Ninoy in the back of the head. De Mesa said he wrestled briefly with Galman before the latter was shot.
Sgt. Rogelio Moreno, meanwhile, denied that it was he who shot the senator since he was not even carrying a gun at the time.
Martinez said the Aquino family should reopen the double-murder case to clear speculation that it was President Ferdinand Marcos who ordered the assassination. Earlier reports had quoted Martinez as saying that it was Eduardo "Danding" Cojuangco Jr. who masterminded the killing.
"It wasn't [Marcos] The mastermind is still alive. He didn't even go to [Cory's] funeral. He's a relative," he said.