"Greetings to all."
It’s August 21 tomorrow, that time of the year when the media revisit the assassination of Senator Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr. at the airport that now bears his name. That was 38 years ago, in 1983.
I was part of the entourage to welcome Ninoy at the airport that day. The entourage was led by former Batasan Assemblyman Salvador “Doy” Laurel. Lawyer Joker Arroyo and former House Speaker Jose Laurel Jr. were also part of that entourage.
Expect many newspapers and magazines to feature stories about Ninoy, especially those written by admirers of Ninoy’s widow, President Cory Aquino.
A certain television network, currently operating without a legislative franchise, will herald Ninoy’s life story. Overseas cable television channels will replay the same overused documentaries about Ninoy and his widow.
In the course of praising Ninoy, those articles and documentaries will portray the late President Ferdinand Marcos as a villain, a dictator, and Ninoy’s evil nemesis. There will also be suggestions that Marcos had a hand in the assassination of Ninoy, as well as potshots at Imelda Marcos, the other half of the so-called “conjugal dictatorship.”
Thus, I believe it is high time to discuss what the usual August 21 feature stories and documentaries will conveniently overlook or refuse to discuss.
In October 1984, the Agrava Fact-Finding Board, the panel created by President Marcos to investigate Ninoy’s assassination, concluded that Ninoy was shot on the stairway to the tarmac right after he exited the side door of the airplane.
The findings of the Agrava Board appear to disprove the version of the military establishment that a certain gunman named Rolando Galman shot Ninoy when the ex-senator was already on the tarmac.
Four of the five members of the Agrava Board implicated General Fabian Ver, the Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines. There is nothing in the Agrava Board report directly implicating President Marcos and/or his wife.
Ambassador Bienvenido Tan Jr., the public coordinator of the Agrava Board, revealed that there was never any evidence linking President Marcos or Imelda Marcos to Ninoy’s assassination. Tan added that although the Agrava Board may have wanted to make a finding that the Marcos couple were involved in the plot, the Board could not in good conscience come up with that conclusion. The ambassador’s revelation is confirmed by ex-Supreme Court Chief Justice Artemio Panganiban.
President Marcos himself admitted in a post-EDSA interview he gave to an American magazine that he was “very, very sick” when Ninoy was shot dead at the tarmac. For a man who, in his prime, disliked admitting to any illness, that statement is quite a revelation.
During her entire six years and four months as President, Cory Aquino was never able to pinpoint the mastermind of her husband’s murder, despite the National Bureau of Investigation, the Philippine National Police, and the military intelligence services at her beck and call. Maybe the forensic technology back then wasn’t advanced enough, or perhaps additional evidence of substantial consequence remained undiscovered.
The bigger mystery, however, is why Ninoy’s only son and namesake, Noynoy Aquino, did not bother to order a reinvestigation of the assassination of his father.
During Noynoy’s presidency (2000-2016), forensic technology had already improved tremendously since his mother’s presidency, and ample time had already passed within which some previously undiscovered evidence may have already been available.
Despite the Agrava Board report, Filipinos are still curious as to who was the mastermind behind Ninoy’s assassination. I believe that curiosity is shared by the Marcos and Aquino families.
Reputable documentaries I have been watching on cable television indicate that many unsolved mysteries of the past, even those of hundreds of years ago, can be solved by modern forensic technology, and by diligent investigative research.
Thus, if I were Noynoy, among the first things I would have done as President is to order a reinvestigation of Ninoy’s assassination.
There may be a chance that nothing substantial may come out of the reinvestigation, but if there is even a slight chance of finally identifying who masterminded Ninoy’s murder, the Filipino people are entitled to find that out for a fact. They, the Marcoses and Aquinos included, need a closure to one of the country’s most saddening events in its history.
How come Noynoy did not bother to order a reinvestigation?
Perhaps the Aquino family is comfortable with keeping President Marcos a suspect in the assassination, no matter how far fetched his possible involvement may be. From all indications, however, the present stereotype of Ninoy Aquino as the hero and Ferdinand Marcos as the heel, suits the Aquino family just fine.
Greetings to all on the occasion of Ninoy Aquino Day.