MANILA, Philippines ? (UPDATE 5) The 10 remaining convicted soldiers in the assassinations of former Senator Benigno "Ninoy" Aquino Jr. and purported gunman Rolando Galman are finally free.
Rogelio Moreno, Ruben Aquino, Arnulfo Artates, Romeo Bautista, Jesus Castro, Arnulfo De Mesa, Rodolfo Desolong, Claro Lat, Ernesto Mateo and Filomeno Miranda walked out of the National Bilibid Prison (NBP) in Muntinlupa City Wednesday, more than two decades after they were found guilty of the Aug. 21, 1983 killings at the former Manila International Airport.
Moreno was convicted as the triggerman who shot Aquino as the opposition leader was being led down the stairs leading from the airplane he had returned to the country in to the MIA tarmac.
The 10 had been granted clemency by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo last March 2.
Lawyer Persida Rueda-Acosta, head of the Public Attorney?s Office, and other PAO officials escorted the 10 out of their cells at exactly 1:10 p.m. on Wednesday.
The Bureau of Corrections reviewed the computation of the prison terms, based on time served and good behavior, for over two hours to make sure that they would not be questioned later on the basis of negligence and errors in computation.
BuCor Director Oscar Calderon was seen hours earlier at the NBP but was not there to send the prisoners off hours later.
The 10, who were still in prison-issued orange shirts, shared their last lunch together with Acosta and other jail officials.
At exactly 3:20 p.m., a prison official read to the 10 convicts their discharge letter, signed by Chief Superintendent Ramon Reyes, who is in charge of the maximum prison compound.
As of posting time, the 10 rode a van that brought them to the Evangelista Clinic in Pacita Complex, San Pedro, Laguna, for a medical checkup.
Acosta said they would then be brought to the PAO office in Quezon City for debriefing, after which they would be allowed to go home.
Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez signed the release order for the 10 convicts following Arroyo?s executive clemency.
?Pursuant to the Order of Commutation dated March 2, 2009, you are hereby directed to implement the same in accordance with their updated prison record with actual number of years of service of sentence including good conduct time allowances and colonial status they have earned in accordance with the laws and NBP rules and regulations,? Gonzalez said in his memorandum to Bureau of Corrections Director Oscar Calderon.
Gonzalez said that, aside from the endorsement by the Board of Pardons and Parole, other factors that were considered in their release was a letter from former president Corazon Aquino, through her lawyer Fulgencio Factoran, saying she has forgiven the convicts.
The 10 were also suffering from "multiple serious diseases" such as severe hypertension, diabetes, kidney disease and cerebrovascular disease, said Gonzalez.
Malacañang deputy spokesperson Lorelei Fajardo said Arroyo has always ?exercised extreme prudence and sound judgement? and ?upon the recommendation of the Board of Pardons and the Department of Justice.?
In February, two other comrades of the ex-soldiers convicted of killing Aquino and Galman, were also ordered freed by Arroyo.
The soldiers were among the 16 former members of the Aviation Security Command found guilty of the August 21, 1983 assassination of Aquino.
The event sparked a protest movement that culminated in the 1986 EDSA People Power revolt that brought down the 14-year dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos.