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18 YEARS IN THE MAKING

Writer says movie script on Aquino assassination ready

By: - Desk Editor / @Inq_Lifestyle
/ 07:24 AM August 22, 2018

NINOY ASSASSINATION Spirit of Edsa Foundation members mark the 35th death anniversary of Ninoy Aquino Jr. MARIANNE BERMUDEZ

Sometime in 1987, Teddy Benigno, then newly installed as press secretary for President Cory Aquino, invited Repertory Philippines executive director Zenaida Amador to Malacañang.

Benigno, a veteran newspaperman, wanted Amador to give him pointers on how not to get rattled during media conferences, especially under the glare of TV cameras.

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When Benigno ushered Amador into a hall in Malacañang, she asked him if that was the same place where the dictator Ferdinand Marcos was rumored to have thrown an ashtray during a meeting shortly after the assassination of Ninoy Aquino.

The morbid joke was Marcos lost his temper and shouted that the order was to kill Ninoy—but not at the airport.

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Revisionism

These days, how many people care at all that Aug. 21 is Ninoy Aquino Day, aside from it being a special nonworking holiday?

In fact, yesterday, 35 years after the murder of Marcos’ political archrival and critic—a momentous event that precipitated the downfall of the dictatorship—Ninoy Aquino Day seemed to have been set aside, if not overshadowed, by President Duterte, who declared Aug. 21 also as the feast day of Eid al-Adha, or Feast of Sacrifice, which Muslims otherwise celebrate on Aug. 22.

Truth to tell, the memory of Aquino’s martyrdom has, alarmingly, been subjected to a massive revisionism by paid trolls and orchestrated fake news.

But one guy has spent the past 18 years digging up almost every piece of document related to the Aquino assassination, including events and incidents preceding it, in a bid to set things straight.

From his research, freelance writer Chris Viriña has written a film script that delves on the nagging question of not just who ordered, planned and executed the murder of Aquino upon his arrival from exile in the United States, but, more importantly, why he was silenced with a single bullet to the head.

Research

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Viriña, 54, son of veteran radio-TV-film scriptwriter Loida Flores Viriña, grew up under martial law and was fresh out of college when Filipinos—already shocked by Aquino’s murder and further outraged by rampant cheating in the 1986 elections—drove Marcos out of Malacañang in the Edsa People Power Revolution.

On what spurred him to write the script for the docu-drama, whose working title is “Hindi Ka Nag-iisa,” he said: “Because nobody has dared, and it seems there’s something wrong with that part of our history and also what’s happening today.”

Before writing a first draft of the script, he said he did a lot of research on the subject.

He went through the complete report of the Agrava Fact-Finding Commission, which Marcos formed to investigate the Aquino case, and watched videos and read numerous articles related to it.

He went to the National Library to read up on Aquino to get a better appreciation of the man. “The Conjugal Dictatorship” and other books on the 1986 Edsa People Power Revolution gave him a deeper understanding of martial law and Edsa 1.

As he plodded through various materials, he learned about Jose Fronda Santos—an erstwhile bodyguard of Aquino and ex-member of a government death squad.

Santos, then 35 years old, told the Agrava Commission that Aviation Security Command chief Luther Custodio, who headed airport security on the day Aquino returned, had asked him to spy on Aquino in the United States and, when the opportunity presented itself, to kill the opposition leader.

Custodio denied his allegations.

Santos repeated his testimony in his affidavit submitted to the US House subcommittee on Asia and Pacific affairs, which stated that the instructions to assassinate the former senator came from former President Marcos and Gen. Fabian Ver.

Santos fled the country in January 1984 and has asked for political asylum in the United States.

Conspiracy

The most important points that his script raises, according to Viriña, were Aquino’s resolve to return to the Philippines and the conspiracy to kill him.

An initial draft of the script, he added, had been given to Cory Aquino for her comments. He was unable to meet her before she died.

After seeing Mike de Leon’s film, “Citizen Jake,” Viriña sent the filmmaker a revised copy of his script.

De Leon, as quoted by Viriña, said: “It’s a difficult script to do and would also be quite expensive. It seems well-written, though, and thoroughly researched. Thank you for showing it to me…”

To Viriña, that sounded more than enough validation of his work.

Pressed to give more details in the script, Viriña referred to former President Fidel Ramos’ claim that three people were behind the plan to kill Aquino.

“In my script,” Viriña said, “these people are shown watching the Aquino funeral procession on TV.” —WITH INQUIRER RESEARCH

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TAGS: Aquino assassination, Cory Aquino, Ninoy Aquino Day, Philippine news updates, Teddy Benigno, Zenaida Amador
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