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Saturday, December 1, 2012

Chapter 31 - Ninoy's Assassination at Tarmac

Chapter 31

Ninoy’s Assassination at Tarmac

            One major event that stirred the collective consciousness of Filipinos from its long stupor came on a Sunday of August 21, 1983 at tarmac. It was Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino’s assassination. Event was so fast that Ninoy was right away dead few seconds  after he disembarked  down from an airplane that carried him from Taiwan using ‘Marcial Bonifacio’ name in his passport. The mastermind might had grinned ear to ear learning the success of the conspiracy. The thrill though died its natural death. The plot killing the returning popular opposition contributed more harm than good. The otherwise  repercussion  boomeranged later development validated.
            “Who could have done this was definitely a nut miscalculating the tragic incident creating more damage than good facilitating the beginning of an end of Lakay Apo’s reign,” Major de la Rosa thought realizing how an ambitious but gullible man he was once falling into the trap of  the deep abyss of the Wolves of RSM contributing  making all those mess as an officer of  highly politicized institution with all those ramifications treating him to rollercoaster ride. He was elated nonetheless recuperating surviving the nightmare  from Mt. Sungcal saga. He abhorred tough going back dreaming that nightmare now that he is wide  awake savoring the sweetness of freedom.  But how about this Ninoy’s incident? Of course, he was not privy on this incident.
            “What another scandal to the institution he had been an active member. Could it be an end of my career as military officer?” he thought. But why he is so affected given the nature of assassination all over the globe  none among  suspects were caught.
            “Why would I indeed,” he said to himself learning assassins ran free after delivering their goods.
            The tragedy ushered in new  political development as Filipinos were engulfed by hatred polarizing further from those the Powers-that-be forcing later the two important military figures Min. Juan Ponce Enrile and Gen. Eddie ‘Steady’ Ramos later swayed to the peoples’ cause. Sealing the fate of this separation was the Catholic Church titular head His Eminence Cardinal Jaime L. Sin breaking the backbone of Marcos’ iron fist fast approaching its impending end already secured in pages of  history. It ushered in the crossroad not how to end but when to end. This developed as Uncle Sam was just waiting in the wings when would the opportune time to drop him. 1985 declared  that Marcos’ was already a terminal cancer and it was necessary to address the issue as it might eat up other vital organs creating further complications
             Rolando Galman was the culprit as hired assassin. That if the news concocted by military circulating around if at all to be believed. But of course, the claim was just one of the ride-ons as many others joined riding the fun. Various groups and individuals even distributed leaflets revealing why Ninoy’s life was terminated. One crazy retiree military guy even bragged his personal delivery of huge bounty getting the services of the killer himself! But no. It was a sick joke no one bought the story’s credibility! Fiesta would soon ensued how this guy did the dirty job killing Ninoy given his height and trajectory of the bullet which most unlikely unless he brought a ladder or a chair firing that fatal shot on Ninoy. Like Agatha Christie’s classic, all persons anything to do with Ninoy were considered suspects – military, Imelda, Cojuangco, Uncle Sam, communists and yes Marcos.
            “What about that American guy who was with Ninoy all the way from US,” nasty thought played in his mind though most unlikely to account his participation.
            “But who knows, just who knows given how Uncle Sam plays around influencing world politics,” Taklin further thought.
            Lupito Kashiwara’s expose would have make it solving the crime. As his narratives were run by Philippine Free Press, his charges implicating the military was the closest. He knows as he accompanied his brother in law all the way from US and was right there seated at Ninoy’s right in an airplane and went with him disembarking at the tarmac too hearing only those shots, the last sound he ever heard. Corazon J. Agrava’s two reports incidentally would corroborate his observation.
            Marcos and Ninoy had been best of buddies.  Respect had been there between the two. It is no secret even to the President that Madame Imelda had crush on Ninoy back then. Even when Ninoy in Boston, he would call right away his friend in Malacanang everytime he runs out of money. True enough few minutes after each call,  $1,000.00 or more becomes handy saving bad times for Ninoy. Showing further his sincerity giving benefit of doubts for those who perceived otherwise, he with four others as members – Dante Santos representing business sector, Ernesto Boy Herrera, labor, Amado C. Hizon and Atty. Luciano Salazar. It took one year thorough investigation involving 20,000 pages of testimony from 193 witnesses before coming out with two reports – one for majority and another for minority.  
            The Minority report chaired by Chairman Agrava herself confirmed that Aquino’s Assassination was a military conspiracy but cleared Gen Fabian Ver. The report however noted that “Marcos intimidated and pressured members of the Board persuading not to indict  Ver, his first cousin and most trusted General,” Major de la Rosa learned.
            The Majoirty report on the other hand indicted many AFP officers – Gen. Luther Custodio, Gen. Prospero Olivas, Heada of AVSECOM, Gen. Ver also included. There was a plan actually for the group to convene on Nov. 3, 1983 but Marcos made the thing happened by accusing the Communists killing Ninoy – decision on the promptings of Rodulfo Salas, Sec. Gen. of  Phil. Communist Party. “Ninoy befriended but subsequently betrayed his Coomunists comrades,” Major de la Rosa further learned.
            No one actually testified who fired the fatal shot.  But Rebecca Quijano saw a man running towards Aquino and his escorts point  a gun at the back of his head then sound of gunshot ensued felling Ninoy’s body dead. The post mortem conducted later validated. “True he was shot at close range bullet exiting at the chin downward angle supporting Quijano’s testimony. The bottom line of it all – the assassin was wearing military uniform!” Taklin concluded his reading Agrava report. Disturbing him however were later development creating a mess what otherwise subduing natural trend toward possible disclosure of the suspect.
            Timeline was dizzying but Taklin didn’t mind. 25 men inlcuidng generals and Colonels and one civilian were charged in 1985 by SandiganBayan, s Spcial Court; 16 were found guilty and sentenced to life imprisonment in another investigation after Marcos. Brig. Gen Luther Custodio, Arnulfo de Mesa, Constable Rogelio Moreno and gunman MSgt. Pablo Martinez . . . . were indicted. An appeal redu ing to 22 years was made claiming that the assassination was orderd by business partner Eduardo Cojuango Jr. Marcos business partrner surprisingly cleared by Aquino family. 16 defendants were finally convicted by Sandigan Bayan and sentenced to lie imprisonment. Fortunately MSgt Pablo Martinez was later released from National Bilibid Prison after Pres. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo ordered his release for humanitarian reason as he was already in his 70s age.  Enthusiasm was however dampened when he recant his earlier declaration implicating Eduardo Cojuangco as the master mind. His parting shot however just the same reveal his double-speak of the issue:
                                  “If you are listening Madame Cory Aquino, please forgive
                                   me for the sin I  did (have done-words he used) in the past!”

            “Need to say more,” Taklin convinced of his analysis to put closure on the issue.

. . . . . . . . .

            Filipinos have been treated to all sorts of killings. Ninoy’s death was just the latest.  Murder has been there everywhere from Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao. Election is abnormal if there are  no killing. Ambushes were once fad of the time at Mindanao right during Martial Law.
            “What is happening to our country General question of then Vice President Emmanuel Pelaez” tells it all the real status of senseless killing in the country himself would have been added as another fertilizer. Nothing new except however this one involving high profile politician possible occupant of Malacanang after Marcos. Ninoy himself was aware of that.
             “Marcos would simply not kill me or I’d be transformed into a hero like  Martin Luther King; same with Communists liquidating me or I become another hero of the people,” the Media took the story.
             To Any concerned Filipino tax payers jumped right away their conclusion that Lakay Apo might have order the killing. But no, sincerity was written right all over the faces of the First family when they appear on national TV giving their take on the issue clearing their names of the incident. Major de la Rosa supported and accepted the explanation his mind wandering who’s that  brave soul who did the favor  the lifeless body sprawled on tarmac,  first ever high profile assassination recorded incident that happened in the country. Since then the staccato burst  of those gunshots that felled Ninoy’s body still  reecho and reverberating today. Like deafening silence  causing  more harm than good, that dark spot of our country’s  history  aggravated further  the speculation generating and  fanning further inquiry and theory dragging that unsolved issue this far.
             “We had already even passed the twenty years prescriptive period long overdue on 2003,” noted by then DOJ Secretary Hernani Perez. But alas the  feeling of fear and trembling still gripping the collective consciousness of the people brought by inaptitude of those in authority  and inability  of our justice system in solving the crime of the century looks even more menacing  what with the  even  more complication and impatience  among concerned taxpayers. PNOY’s call therefore for the reopening of the case lately was most welcome development. Admittedly though, pinning down the culprits and meting out desirable penalty is a Herculean task. For like any work of fiction, it needs honest to goodness sleuthing requiring the use of   scalpel cutting through the very deep recesses of the issue  passing through different layers going out from  the  mazes. However little did you know that  you are caught again in the  web of ramification and that after you came out surviving, discovered to your amazement  that you are barely scratching the surface and  that everything so far  is  only the tip of an iceberg.
            Such has been the seemingly elusive and implacable search for justice of Ninoy’s assassination after Marcos and the first Lady disowned the assassination towards the still undisclosed result of Agrava Commission. Whatever happened to our authority and justice system that they are so inept that they have failed solving the crime.  Something fishy here. Incidentally two names almost did us great favor – Col.Erwin Ver and  Sgt. Martinez, one of the principal witness -  both  recanting the gruesome cold blooded murder of Ninoy and categorically naming Danding Cojuangco as mastermind. It was such very important lead carrying  decisive pronouncement given  the credibility of Martinez having experienced religious  conversion inside the prison cell.
            Unfortunately though  whatever happened that he was even faster taking back his testimony  before he could declare his testimony under oath. As he was  granted presidential pardon and retiring  home, so too the issue died its natural death.. It’s all the closest we got and probably would have  solved  the crime. That was few years back and as usual he has all the Filipinos caught in a fix. Thus, Damocles blade still hanging up there and would probably be lifted only for good from the collective consciousness of the people once the issue is solved. But when as we are now back to square one. That leaving proverbial light in the tunnel indubitably remains  distant forever, Major de la Rosa uttered in resignation.
            It was clearly a conspiracy leaving no trace of accountability as events overtook swiftly leaving all caught off guard ‘who could have done it.’ One thing though is sure that incident was carried single-handedly with conspiracy hatched in his own mind, carried through no one bugging him. When solved, it  would surely  be such  great favor done ever for all Filipinos specially among  post Martial Law babies. Rizal’s death by musketry and Andres Bonifacio by the men of Aguinaldo were already closed and done issue in history books and thus left no room for inquiry and speculation sealing their lofty niche in history.
            From the looks of it, Ninoy’s assassination  is an issue that will always  stand and reappear like batman. It will simply refuse to die until solved albeit  many people have been identified party to the conspiracy and their voices heard. Assassination of great personalities like US Presidents is top secret except that of Abraham Lincoln who was gunned  down in a lobby of  theater and John F. Kennedy  where his assassin Lee Oswald was later caught. Handled by professionals in cahoots with trusted lieutenants, it  is carried in such systematic and precise calculated covert operation leaving authorities in the cold of the night leaving no imprints to trace of  the crimes committed.
            But better for the real suspect recant and fix the mess as no way they could keep the lead forever in their hearts. They may even bury them all the way to their grave but no way they could keep away   from it. Comes the time of reckoning when they travel up there, they would still have to meet God face to face and recount their participation. If not, there is  conflagration. Didn’t St. Mark (9:42-50) warns us that it’s better to enter the Kingdom of God with hands, feet cut off and eyes plucked out from their sockets than be thrown to blazing inferno with all  body parts  intact.
            Unfortunately what we’ve got from Ninoy are merely sketches of the incident from the wide array of suspects whose inability of  cooperation merely aggravated the guesswork of the real culprits. For as long as it remains  unresolved, I think the more would be written about him. Ninoy after all is just one of few good man any writers would be about to explore writing. This is already the rebel priest’s installment and  I must confess that that surge of excitement from both reflection and research  all the more propelling  writing this kind of piece. Who knows that the answer just lie somewhere and that honest –to goodness individual might  finally come out and solve once and for all the issue.  That would be the best compliment  and token we could  finally offer to Ninoy in his still unresolved 32th death anniversary and still counting. Only then Ninoy’s soul will  finally rest in peace.
            “So be it.”Taklin prayed!
            But here’s the catch he gathered from the grapevine revealing connection search for lasting peace for Mindanao.
            The latest crazy development of them all – a picture of Ninoy with a man in Malaysia posted in the internet two days before Ninoy’s ill-fated trip back to the Phlippines. The man was popular fixture later between the Government panel and MILF negotiating Bangsamoro.  There was too much bravado albeit whose notoriety has even taken the government  hostage from President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo to Benigno ‘PNoy’ in his participation in Mindanao’s Bangsamoro struggle, actually the brainchild of Nur Misuari back then as Head of MNLF concocted on 1974 yet dragged till 1996 Tripoli Agreement which lead to the creation of Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanno  composed of Muslim dominated provinces and municipalitiespanel..
            Whatever transpired there no one could guess but as far as Taklin is concerned nothing is new there other than continuing talks of Sabah, a fact not privy to Ninoy people  would later accused as traitor selling  the island belonging to the Philippines to Malaysia. Nothing significant really until you learned the identity of the man in the picture. The generous host happened to be no less than Datukan Abbas,  a wily and  subtle MILF Chief negotiator in a Bangsamoro struggle later in Mindanao. Nothing new here. This as far as Major de la Rosa is concerned because Sabah had been on the mind of Ninoy as his tough bargaining chips in whatever political ambition he had. Reason that he exposed the Jabidah Massacre, Taklin learned how this  relationship tying two pieces together made sense.
            “Betrayal of Filipino people continues,” dawned to him why Ninoy’s namesake Malacanang occupant and his elk at DOJ had been moving heaven and earth to pass the Bangsamoro Basic Law.
            “That doesn’t include the reportedly 300 Million grease money and to as high as P50-200 M signing bonus among lawmakers in Congress and Senate to pass the BBL,” Taklin threw wry smiled to the air.
            The guy happened to use many aliases. “I’m into revolutionary government and we’re allowed using as many aliases as protection,” he would defend his predicament in the subsequent Senate investigation,” his creative antics however would doom his fate when concerned senators finally gang up on him giving him benefits of his doubts using various aliases.
            “How could that be when using aliases constitute criminal offense in  Political Law,” Taklin would have a day later on the issue.
            What a bombshell  clincher digging into the original name of the Chief Negotiator showing he was implicated to several bombings with warrant of arrest issued on 2003 linking to bombing of Davao International Airport 20 killed and 143 injured and Davao Sasa Wharf where 17 were killed and 56 injured. The man even has the gall publishing  “The Long Road to Peace” using an alias Salah Jubair, an irony as the title alone smacks right of betrayal right before his face.
             “You want peace, why not practice it in your own family, community and yourself,” Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago would later gave him a lesson. That man incidentally goes by the name of Mohagher Iqbal, same name he affixed in Bangsamoro document with government peace panel!
Taklin was sad and remembered right away  his good friend Fr. Driarco he thought might have suffered identity crisis learning Jesuit Mafia had it again providing even recognition and award to Iqbal.
            “Recognition for what . . . ? misconception that peace is delivered in silver platter.”
            “Let’s see where true peace is?” the thought playing in his mind.
            “If this assuming good Jesuit fathers only learned  that a nun was among those featured in Sasa Wharf bombing . . . . “ he uttered with resignation.
            “It’s all rooted in the culture, system and religion. If poverty, injustice and inequalities, BBL is only good in paper. Feudalism, arm fetish and bloodshed would remain,” he cleared.
            “Look how Muslim provinces registered as top ten poorest provinces in row,”
            “Whatever happen that there exists ghost municipalities in the region. Where are the internal revenue allotment that many of these municipalities are in stark poverty this while their Mayors and Governors were making as among the top riches CEOs in their SALN!” this and many other hard facts existed in Taklin’s mind. He has to let it go as few brave soul has the nerve confronting this group in the concept of free market of ideas. What more of a fatwah that elders might decree against him.
            “So what you want peace, then let’s talk it over in the table,” he concluded or the issue might further be dragged ad infinitum.

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