Read Part 1: Fewer than 10 people in plot; 5 core, 5 others ?in the know?
Part 2: Marcos: ?My best successor is Ninoy?
(Third in a series)
(Editor?s Note: This part of the series is based on intelligence reports archived at the Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (ISAFP) and on interviews with Rodolfo Salas, former chief of the New People?s Army (NPA); Sen. Benigno Aquino III; and a retired brigadier general who held a key position at ISAFP in the 1980s.)
When it became evident that Sen. Benigno ?Ninoy? Aquino Jr. would be coming home, the military also started receiving reports revealing ?strong indications of a possible plot? against the opposition leader?s life.
Information about the alleged plots was ?overheard? by military assets in an eatery in Tarlac province and in unspecified places in Batangas province and Cabanatuan City. The plots supposedly involved communists, rightists and political opportunists. The motives cited were vendetta and politics.
The reports were relayed to Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief of Staff Gen. Fabian C. Ver by Brig. Gen. Rolando Pattugalan, then ISAFP chief, in a series of memos dated July 6, July 15, July 31, Aug. 16 and Aug. 20, all in 1983.
The memos were Pattugalan?s progress report on Project ?Four Flowers,? the ISAFP special intelligence project launched to confirm the plot and determine the time, place, manner, weapons to be used and the persons tasked to carry out the plot.
?Four Flowers? was presented in an executive session to the Agrava Board on March 5, 1984, by then ISAFP Brig. Gen Fidel Singson, with Col. Roman Gavino, executive officer of the Office of the Deputy chief of staff for intelligence; Col. Galileo Kintanar, chief of staff of ISAFP, and Col. Alejandro Galido, group commander for counter-intelligence, also of ISAFP.
The Agrava Board was a fact-finding commission set up by President Ferdinand Marcos to investigate the murder of Aquino and his presumed assassin, Rolando Galman.
(Singson said during the board?s session that he replaced Pattugalan as ISAFP chief on Aug. 17, 1983, or three days before Pattugalan?s final memo to Ver).
Records from ?76 to ?83
The memos were among the handful of military records extant 25 years after the Aquino assassination?the ?crime of the century? that sparked national outrage and led to the ouster of the Marcos dictatorship in February 1986.
The Philippine Daily Inquirer obtained a copy of the Pattugalan memos, a military dossier on Aquino and the criminal record of Galman from 1976 to 1983 from a source in the military general headquarters Camp Aguinaldo.
The Philippine Daily Inquirer showed copies of the memos to Pattugalan in an interview last December. Pattugalan said he had nothing to do with Project ?Four Flowers? and that he had never seen the memos before.
The memos said the communists wanted Aquino killed because he had ?collaborated? with the Marcos dictatorship. Another ?collaborator? targeted for liquidation was former Assemblyman Homobono Adaza.
Relatives of three NPA members also wanted to kill Aquino to avenge the death of their kin who were liquidated because they knew Aquino had allegedly masterminded the bombing of Plaza Miranda in August 1971.
The bombing of the Liberal Party rally killed nine people and injured more than a hundred.
The revenge angle
A follower of Salvador Laurel, another opposition leader, also wanted Aquino dead because Aquino was ?an opportunist who is exploiting the opposition.?
The relatives of Benjamin Sanguyo, alias Kumander Pusa of the NPA, also wanted to avenge his death allegedly in the hands of Aquino?s henchmen.
Sanguyo was killed soon after he told a military tribunal that Aquino had funded the daring raid by then-Lt. Victor Corpus of the Philippine Military Academy armory in December 1970. Corpus was an instructor at the PMA before defecting to the NPA.
Sanguyo had also testified that Aquino allowed wounded NPA rebels to stay in his house in Quezon City for medical treatment.
The designated assassin was supposed to join a delegation from Central Luzon who would go to the Manila International Airport to welcome Aquino on his return from US exile. A group of 20 supporters would create a commotion that would allow the assassin to escape after he had done his job.
The ISAFP did not discount the possibility of other groups plotting against Aquino ?for entirely different motives, which include vendetta or even for pure political reasons.?
The Pattugalan memos were ?unclear about the means and methods [the plotters] intend to resort to in order to carry out the plot or plots.?
In the last memo sent on the eve of Aquino?s arrival, Pattugalan informed Ver that the senator was ?definitely arriving on Sunday Aug 21 at about 1300H.? The airline and flight number, however, were not yet known.
That information was not shared with the Aviation Security Command (Avsecom), a unit which was tasked to secure Aquino?s arrival. The ISAFP was also excluded from Oplan Balikbayan, the much-vaunted comprehensive military security plan for Aquino?s arrival.
The ISAFP was to have a cover-up role?by providing a cover story that would link Galman, a gun-for-hire, to the communists.
Aquino was shot dead on Aug. 21, 1983, as he was being escorted by soldiers to a van of the Aviation Security Command waiting at the tarmac that would have taken him from the airport to a military camp. The military pointed to Galman??a communist hit-man,? according to President Marcos?as the assailant.
The Aquino family saw the ?communist plot? was part of Marcos? propaganda against the senator. It became more evident to them since the plot was played up in the Marcos media in the weeks leading to Aquino?s homecoming.
The penultimate memo, dated Aug. 16, reported about a meeting held by the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) leadership to discuss Aquino?s arrival.
Aquino had made known his plans to come home to communist leader Rodolfo Salas through an intermediary. Salas had replied by advising Aquino to stay abroad where he would be safer.
Since he did not want Aquino to come home yet, Salas did not order a ?mobilization? of supporters to welcome the senator. He did not send a hit-man, either, to kill the senator.
In fact, Salas was at home preparing to cook the Kapampangan delicacy ?sisig? when he heard on radio that Aquino had been shot.
In his confusion, Salas opened the pressure cooker without waiting for the pressure to ease. The pig?s ears he was cooking shot up to the ceiling and the boiling broth exploded on his chest and face.
The military dossier on Galman profiled a hardened criminal who had served terms at the Nueva Ecija provincial jail and the Camp Olivas stockade for homicide, robbery and illegal possession of firearms.
He was released on bail from Camp Olivas in December 1982. In February 1983, Galman and ex-Sgt. Edmundo Marzan, waylaid a Fortune Tobacco panel along the Sta. Rosa, Nueva Ecija, highway, divesting the sales agent of some P35,000 cash, several boxes of cigarettes and a wristwatch.
For the crime, another warrant was issued on Galman and Marzan in April 1983.
Galman was not a member of the communist ?Sandatahang Yunit Propaganda? supposedly sent out by Kumander Bilog to kill Aquino.
Galman was a gun-for-hire and a military asset who was primed for one big project. He was ?procured? by a civilian-military group to pull the trigger on a target not of his own choosing.
He was the last man at the end of the civilian-military conspiracy.