Aquino didn’t care to bring father’s killers to justice

by Rigoberto Tiglao on August 20, 2015

Today marks the 32nd anniversary of the assassination of opposition leader Ninoy Aquino, an event that changed the course of Philippine history. Newspapers’ front pages tomorrow will be filled with photos of President Aquino 2rd and his sisters grieving at their father’s grave. There would be eulogies to the martyr whose death triggered, as the Yellow narrative puts it, the fall of the Dark Lord.

However, since four years ago, I’ve thought something’s terribly wrong with such photos, and with all the paeans.

There is one man who has all the resources and moral standing to put at peace Ninoy’s spirit by determining conclusively who ordered the assassination.

This is Ninoy’s son, President Benigno Aquino 3rd.

But Pres. Aquino hasn’t lifted a finger to bring closure to his father’s ruthless assassination. This is despite his five years of being the most powerful man in the country–in fact, in his first two years in office, one of the most popular presidents–and so powerful that he has been able to remove the Supreme Court Chief Justice, incarcerate the former president on flimsy grounds, throw three powerful senators to jail, and have the entire Congress under his thumb.

Aquino is known to be vengeful against those who have slighted him in the most minor manner. But this trait obviously doesn’t apply to his father’s murderers.

Aquino’s seeming lack of concern over his father’s murder indicates that either there is something deeply wrong in this person’s psyche, or that there is something terribly embarrassing in the assassination that has been kept so secret that even the victim’s powerful family has refused to uncover its mastermind.

It has been a shame on us as a nation, and represents the heights of our country’s hypocrisy in honoring Ninoy Aquino, that after 32 years, the conspirators who ordered the assassination haven’t been identified, much less convicted.

Still an unsolved murder, even as his wife and son became presidents. Ninoy Aquino and his alleged killer Rolando Galman on the tarmac Aug. 21, 1983.

Still an unsolved murder, even as his wife and son became presidents. Ninoy Aquino and his alleged killer Rolando Galman on the tarmac Aug. 21, 1983.

Nobody even seems to be even interested in finding out. The highest-ranking officer convicted for the crime was Aviation Security Command General Luther Custodio, who died in 1991. The rest of those convicted consisted of one captain, one lieutenant, and – talk of a class society – 13 sergeants and corporals.

The investigation and legal proceedings undertaken by the Sandiganbayan that led to the September 1990 conviction of these 16 military men were all undertaken at the height of the popularity and power of President Corazon Aquino, who could have left no stone unturned to identify and bring to justice her husband’s real killers: the person or the group of persons who ordered the assassination.

What kind of nation are we to fool ourselves that these military men acted on their own, and that there were no powerful personalities who ordered them to undertake an operation perfectly executed, without a single witness even with a phalanx of foreign correspondents accompanying Ninoy?

Could it be another – even the most shameful – demonstration that this nation is run by a single cabal we call the economic-political elite, that even the administration headed by Aquino’s widow wouldn’t uncover the brains behind the assassination since he is a member of this elite?

Cory’s apparent disinterest when she was president in getting to the bottom of her husband’s murder was viewed as an understandable, even laudable, above-the-fray stance of the Saint of Democracy. More cynical observers felt, however, that she was afraid to discover (or that she even already knew) that the mastermind could be Marcos crony and tycoon Edgardo Cojuangco, her cousin. (Cojuangco has vehemently denied such accusation.)

Aquino’s brother the late Agapito in 1990 right after the Sandiganbayan decision was issued told the New York Times: “They have not convicted the mastermind. But the mastermind, I believe, is already resting in peace.” He was obviously referring to Marcos, who died in 1989. But why couldn’t he even identify the strongman?

‘’It is best to leave this episode behind. We have to move on and continue working for the rehabilitation of our country,’’ he said. An assassination that changed the country, and he was saying the nation should just leave it behind, like a bad dream?

Kind-to-Cory explanation
An explanation kind to Cory claimed that if she had pursued Cojuangco for the crime, the oligarch could have joined and funded the many coup attempts against her rule, and that she chose to sacrifice her personal wish—to avenge her husband—for the sake of the country ‘s political stability.

However, her son certainly can’t invoke such excuses now to justify his disinterest in finding out who ordered his father’s murder.

A huge lacuna in our nation’s history is crying out to be filled, as mysterious as why first his widow and now his son seems to have no interest in finding out and expose who ordered the head of their family killed.

In the case of the mysterious assassination of another president, the United States’ John F. Kennedy, the trail had gone totally cold after nightclub owner Jack Ruby, who killed the alleged assassin Lee Harvey Oswald, died in prison four years later in 1967.

In contrast, in Ninoy’s case, Air Force Sergeant Pablo Martinez — one of those convicted – in separate interviews with two journalists admitted his role as team leader of the assassination force, and was willing to bare all. Martinez provided leads to solve the mystery, even identifying who ordered the assassination.

Martinez alleged that former Philippine Constabulary Maj. Romeo Gatan, a businessman named Hermilo Gosuico, former Air Force Col. Romeo Ochoco, and Air Force Capt. Felipe Valerio had planned the operation to assassinate Ninoy. None of these people had been convicted. They have vanished, with unconfirmed reports that they have migrated either to the US or Australia.

Martinez was killed in 2014 when the bike he was riding was bumped by a car.

While Aquino has all but forgotten his father’s murder, have the masterminds of the assassination been making sure that all trails of the evil deed that could lead to them are forever erased?

Thirteen of the soldiers convicted are still alive and could have been persuaded by the president of the Republic to tell everything they know. They could have even been convinced to disclose who has been generously taking care of their families financially in the 31 years they’ve been in prison.

President Aquino could have even for instance ordered the National Historical Commission to investigate the assassination for the sake of our history books. It could have written an official report to put in the books that the brains haven’t been brought to justice, in order to counter the Sandiganbayan decision which in effect concluded that the murder was merely a failure of military men to secure Aquino from a communist hit man.

The martyr’s son has done nothing. How can Aquino keep wearing that yellow ribbon on his chest, when he has done nothing to solve the crime it signifies?

How can we be proud of a nation whose two presidents, one the widow and the other the son, had not bothered to bring justice to a hero who had declared that the Filipino is worth dying for?

Or maybe it would be more realistic to hope that Senator Ferdinand Marcos, Jr.—who aspires to lead this nation—would provide evidence to prove that it wasn’t his father who ordered Aquino’s murder, as most Filipinos believe the dictator in fact did.

* * *

A version of this article “His powerful son has done nothing to solve his murder” (Manila Times, August 22, 2014) has been one of the most widely read articles in this newspaper’s Internet version, viewed, according to our web statistics, by 60,000 Filipinos, and 7,200 even “liking” or “sharing” it in their Facebook accounts. Neither Aquino nor his spokespersons have, however, responded to the article’s serious allegations. I hope they do now. Details on what Martinez disclosed can be found in that article.

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Poe, Paredes, and Aquino: The trivialization of citizenship

by Rigoberto Tiglao on August 19, 2015

First of a series

“I will answer in the proper forum,” Senator Grace Poe-Llamanzares replied to media inquiries regarding her citizenship, three months ago — as if the issue was not of paramount importance, and the lawyers will explain it.

And this former US citizen even thinks she can be President? Not several years from now as she accumulates experience to enrich her understanding of the Philippines that she had renounced, but next year?

The 1970s singer Jim Paredes in 2006 denounced the Philippines as one where “there’s nothing new and so much cynicism,” so that he decided, he said, “to migrate to Australia.” He “was taking a vacation from being a Filipino,” he said in an interview with a Philippine Center of Investigative Journalism writer. Recently, he’s back trying to convince people whom to vote for President of the nation he had left.

The President of the Republic never pinning the nation’s emblem on his chest, instead his “Yellow Ribbon” of Americana lore.

Llamanzares is in her 40s, Paredes in his 60s, and President Aquino in his 50s are of different generations, but all reflect a sad phenomenon in the country, which is really one of it biggest obstacles to prosperity.

Filipino citizenship has been trivialized.

Llamanzares20150819

Signs of the times: Senator Llamanzares’ US passport; 1970s singer Paredes’ announcement he’s giving up on the country; Brooklyn Nets basketball player becoming Filipino to play in the national team; and, President Aquino III who has never pinned the Philippine emblem on his chest. Insets: The Yellow Ribbon takes over the 60-year old Liberal Party logo; Paredes’ trio in nationalist garb, in a more nationalist era.

So much so that it has reached disgusting levels, as when foreign basketball players are given Filipino citizenship in order to play in the national team  – and nobody thinks something is wrong with that.

And when people of a country trivialize its citizenship, it marks the nadir of nationalism — the sense that we belong to an exclusive organization called the nation-state, whose members’ fate becomes tied up with each other precisely because of their membership. And if nationalism is weakened, it’s every man for himself.

Llamanzares doesn’t even feel she has to explain exhaustively and present documents, as soon as the issue was raised, that she is truly Filipino, not just in sentiment but in actual, legal reality.

Paredes for his part didn’t like the country’s two presidents before this one, so he put down the country, and told the world he would become an Australian instead.

But when he liked the country’s president, the present one, he returned to tell us all who had been left here whom to vote for as president and whom not to. But what happens if his candidate Manuel Roxas II, in a tantrum, does something that triggers a war or an economic collapse, will Paredes remain here, or give an excuse that his family in Australia needs him?

Llamanzares hasn’t said whether her husband also has denounced his US citizenship. If she doesn’t become president or vice president in 2016 and fades into obscurity, will she also say, like Paredes, she’s tired of the country and so they’ll return to America, or “take a vacation from being Filipino”?

Sad and tragic
To see Llamanzares and Paredes trivialize Filipino citizenship is indeed sad — and tragic, since their backgrounds should have put them at the nationalist vanguard of the country.

Llamanzares’ father Fernando Poe’s acting career of course made him rich, but it still helped the masses’ be proud to be Filipino with his portrayal of a distinctively Filipino mythological hero, “Panday.” Although confusing the real person with his movie character, columnist Randy David described Panday’s impact: “He showed them what a Filipino in these times could be.” Today it’s American comic and movie heroes — Ironman, Spider Man, Luke Skywalker.

The name and songs of Paredes’ trio, the APO Hiking Society emerged out of the “Filipinization” movement at the Ateneo in the 1970s. (Under that movement, we even got Filipino as the language used in the college paper Guidon and its literary magazine, something which Ateneans now do not even know happened.) Paredes wouldn’t have been the celebrity he was, if the APO Hiking sang American or British songs and aped the Everly Brothers or the Dave Clark Five.

They sang Filipino songs, not of course kundiman songs, but in the language the youth used, which therefore made Pilipino and being Filipino, well — cool. APO in its nationalist ethos wasn’t unique though. Believe it or not, a hit song in that era was by the Hotdogs, which celebrated going back to the country and its traffic, that “there’s no place like Manila.” Your fellow commuters at the MRT-3 will throw you out of the window, if you sang that now.

APO Hiking Society’s original name was actually Apolinario Mabini Hiking Society, Danny Javier’s brilliant and humorous idea of paying homage to the paraplegic Filipino hero, but not being solemn about it. They were accused making fun of Mabini, but they were already getting popular with the name, so they changed it to the politically correct Apo (as in Mt. Apo) Hiking Society.

Yet even with those kinds of background, Filipino citizenship has become trivialized for Poe and Paredes. And to say citizenship has been trivialized is the same thing as saying that nationalism in our country has declined.

Much sadder for us is that the President of the Republic is himself a reflection of the decline of nationalism. Yes, his speeches are in Filipino, but one can sense that he does that only because his advisers told him that would endear him to the masses, thus his propensity to use street lingo in his speeches like “E di Wow.”

Never wore the Philippine emblem
Aquino has never pinned the country’s emblem on his left chest, as all his predecessors have, and heads of other states do. His sigil is not that of the Philippine Republic, but the “Yellow Ribbon,” an advertising kind of branding concocted in 1985 by an American political consultancy firm Sawyer-Miller [See note on this below], which originated from an American folk tale of a freed convict unsure of the loyalty of his beloved.

The yellow-ribbon would have been dismissed as inappropriate, corny Americana, and forgotten fast if Marcos had not fallen, or if Cory Aquino made good on her promise to let Salvador Laurel be President. Yet Aquino prefers that to the Philippine flag that represents the blood of thousands of heroes sacrificing their lives to create a nation.

The Yellow Ribbon in fact has even taken over the Liberal Party’s logo, nearly obliterating the Philippine flag. If a Daang Matuwid candidate wins in 2016, will he pass a law putting the Yellow Ribbon on our flag?

“Filipino First,” “This Nation can be great again,” “Philippines 2000,” “Strong Republic” — these are some of the slogans Aquino’s predecessors tried to disseminate to strengthen our sense of nationalism. For Aquino though it is just “Daang Matuwid,” a moral notion, rather than a vision of what the Filipino nation could be.

Even the new car plates reveal how little this administration feels about the idea and the ideal of a Philippine Republic. Nearly all past administrations wisely saw the plates as a means for developing Filipino nationalism as these are seen everywhere, and these had a flag, a nationalist slogan, and even a portrayal of Rizal’s monument. Nothing in Aquino’s plates indicate that the Philippine Republic issues them.

If that is the kind of President we have, it is no wonder that Paredes has been rooting for him, and so does — or did — Poe.

Next in these series: (1) Why nationalism has been in decline; (2) What nationalism is in this day and age; and (3) Why its slump explains much of the economic morass we’re submerged in.

[For more on Sawyer-Miller see James Harding, “Alpha Dogs: The Americans Who Turned Political Spin into a Global Business.”]

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Pro-Aquino former chief justice bats for Arroyo’s house arrest

August 16, 2015

One indication of the depths of moral depravity of President Aquino 3rd , and his candidate Manuel Roxas 2nd , has been their persecution of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, a 68-year old grandmother with a life-threatening disease. Even those who have been close to Aquino have been puzzled over his ruthless enmity against Arroyo. Is […]

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Capital flight under Aquino bigger than during Marcos regime

August 13, 2015

In his last SONA, President Benigno Aquino III boasted: “(Under my administration) and for the first time in history, we are unanimously deemed investment grade by the most prominent credit rating agencies.” The agencies’ hosannas aren’t really unexpected, what with the nearly P2 billion Aquino’s government has paid them to do these assessments — eight […]

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The President’s lies on foreign-investment flows

August 11, 2015

In his recent State of the Nation Address, Aquino bragged: “Just look: back in 2010, net foreign direct investment in our country was at $1.07 billion. In 2014, net foreign direct investments reached $6.2 billion. This is the highest ever recorded in our entire history. “ What a liar. To start off, let’s have business […]

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The Mamasapano that Aquino wants to delete from his memory

August 9, 2015

What would you make of these? • President Aquino’s deafening silence in his State of the Nation Address (SONA), that 44 Special Action troopers were massacred in Mamasapano, Maguindanao by Muslim insurgents in the government operation to capture global terrorists during his term. • His no-show as guest of honor on the founding day of […]

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No losing VP candidate ever made it to presidency, and nearly vice-versa

August 6, 2015

After hearing that President Aquino announced that Manuel Araneta Roxas II (“Mar”) was his Liberal Party’s presidential candidate in 2016, a friend, the toughie kind of talker remarked, which I translate into English: “Didn’t he already lose the Vice President contest in 2010? Yet he thinks he can win the presidential contest? It’s as if […]

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Binay vs Roxas: A class-war simulation

August 4, 2015

President Aquino’s endorsement of Mar Roxas as his political heir and the Liberal Party’s candidate for the 2016 elections would really be his biggest gift to the nation, for a reason that I don’t think he can ever understand\ or accept. The contest between Vice President Jejomar Binay and Manuel (“Mar”) Araneta Roxas II would […]

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Why Mar? Several reasons

August 2, 2015

There are at least three explanations why President Benigno Aquino 3rd anointed his sidekick Interior and Local Government Secretary Mar Roxas as his and the Liberal Party’s presidential candidate next year despite his unpopularity, which he hasn’t been able to correct after five years on the job and with all government resources at his command. […]

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‘Daang Matuwid’: PH’s most wacko slogan ever — plagiarized from Islam?

July 30, 2015

“I’ve taken the righteous path.”  –Abu Hattab, 13-year old boy explaining why he joined ISIS and why Americans should be beheaded, as reported in a BBC news clip. President Aquino’s Daang Matuwid will go down in our history as the most wacko and hypocritical slogan—and non-program of government—of any administration. The term embodies though his […]

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