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Timeline: Double murders on tarmac

Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 06:21:00 03/05/2009

Filed Under: Murder, Crime and Law and Justice, Assassination, Prison

On Aug. 21, 1983, moments after alighting from the China Airlines plane that brought him back to the Philippines after a three-year exile in the United States, opposition leader Benigno ?Ninoy? Aquino Jr. was gunned down on the tarmac of the Manila International Airport.

Also killed was Rolando Galman, who the military claimed had been hired by communists to assassinate the rival of then President Ferdinand Marcos.

Three days after the killings, Marcos formed a fact-finding commission headed by Chief Justice Enrique Fernando to investigate the murder. Fernando, who had close ties with the Marcos family, later resigned over questions about his impartiality.

Marcos created another fact-finding commission on Oct. 14, 1983, with former Court of Appeals Justice Corazon Agrava as head.

On Oct. 22, 1984, the commission, with the exception of Agrava, released a report saying that military officers, including then Armed Forces Chief of Staff Gen. Fabian Ver, had conspired to kill Aquino. The report also concluded that the military had framed Galman as Aquino?s assassin.

Agrava issued a separate report that recommended the filing of charges against seven military men. She did not include Ver in the recommendation, saying he was not part of the assassination plot.

All accused acquitted

The Supreme Court assigned the case to the Sandiganbayan anti-graft court, which acquitted all the accused on Dec. 2, 1985.

On Sept. 12, 1986, seven months after Aquino?s widow Corazon was swept to the presidency in the aftermath of the EDSA I People Power Revolution that ousted Marcos in February, the Supreme Court ordered a retrial of the Aquino-Galman case.

Then Tanodbayan Raul Gonzalez filed murder charges against 37 military men, including Ver who had fled the country with the Marcoses, three civilians and several John Does.

16 found guilty

On Sept. 28, 1990, the Sandiganbayan found 16 of the accused guilty of the killings and sentenced them to double life imprisonment. However, no mastermind was named.

Convicted were alleged gunman Constable Rogelio Moreno, Brig. Gen. Luther Custodio, Capt. Romeo Bautista, 2nd Lt. Jesus Castro, C1C Mario Lazaga, A1C Cordova Estelo, A1C Felizardo Taran, M/Sgt. Pablo Martinez, and Sergeants Claro Lat, Arnulfo de Mesa, Filomeno Miranda, Rolando de Guzman, Ernesto Mateo, Rodolfo Desolong, Ruben Aquino and Arnulfo Artates.

Acquitted were Maj. Gen. Prospero Olivas, Colonels Arturo Custodio and Vicente Tigas Jr., Capt. Llewelyn Kavinta, AM Alejandro Febrero, AM Joseph Opilas, A1C Aniceto Acupido, Sergeants Armando de la Cruz, Prospero Bona, Reynaldo Pelias, Eugenio Caliboso, Onofre Danao, Clemente Casta, Tomas Fernandez, Oscar Fabiana, Juan Catador, and Pepito Torio, and civilians Jose Aspiras, Jesus Singson and Hermilo Gosuico.

Capt. Felipe Valerio and former Marcos propaganda chief Gregorio Cendaa could not be found at the time and were thus not arraigned.

Cendaa returned to the country from the US in 1991 and posted a P40,000-bail at the Sandiganbayan. He died in 2006.

Ver succumbed to a lung ailment in Thailand in 1998. Accused Sgt. Leonardo Mojica died while the case was being tried.

SC affirms conviction

On July 23, 1991, the Supreme Court affirmed the conviction.

Through the years, the number of those serving their sentence dwindled because of prison deaths and grants of executive pardon.

Brig. Gen. Luther Custodio, who was afflicted with liver cancer while undergoing trial, died soon after the verdict was handed down. Estelo was stabbed to death in a jail fight in 2005, while Lazaga died in 2008 after suffering a stroke.

In 2007, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo granted M/Sgt. Pablo Martinez conditional pardon because of his advanced age and good behavior.

In February, Taran and De Guzman, whose sentences were commuted by former President Fidel V. Ramos and President Arroyo respectively, completed their prison terms and were released. Inquirer Research

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