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Who killed Ninoy?
It’s a question that remains unanswered up to this day. The assassination of Senator Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr. happened on August 21, 1983, yet many years after his death, the missing piece of the puzzle is still nowhere to be found.
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Many personalities–both famous and obscure–have been accused of the crime, but the real mastermind was never identified. Ninoy’s death is indeed one of the Philippines’ greatest unsolved mysteries, made even more complicated by various conspiracy theories.
Here are 6 people and groups who have been blamed for killing Senator Ninoy Aquino:
Table of Contents
6. Rolando Galman.
Who is he? He’s the guy in the blue shirt who was gunned down a few seconds after Ninoy Aquino was shot at the tarmac of the Manila International Airport.
Why is he a suspect? Galman had a certain reputation of an “underworld figure with military ties.” In other words, there’s a reason to believe that he might be a hired killer paid by an unidentified mastermind to assassinate Aquino.
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For the Marcos administration, however, Galman was a communist hitman who killed Aquino on the orders of the New People’s Army.
Dr. Bienvenido Munoz, who performed the autopsy on Aquino’s body less than 10 hours after the incident, also revealed on a cross-examination that the bullet was directed “upward, downward, and medially,” proving Galman–who was standing on the tarmac and pointing upward–was the one who shot Aquino.
The initial evidence seemed credible but it was outnumbered by those that suggest Galman was a mere fall guy.
According to the late Pablo Martinez, one of the soldiers who was convicted for the assassination, Galman was taken from his home in San Miguel, Bulacan five days before Aquino’s murder. On the day of the assassination, Galman was supposedly killed to deflect the blame from the real culprit.
A few days after his death, four people–including Galman’s common-law wife Lina and girlfriend Anna (see photo above)–reportedly went missing. They were allegedly killed as part of a military cover-up. The remains of Anna Oliva and her sister, Catherine, were later recovered in a sugar cane field near Capas, Tarlac in November 1988.
The Sandiganbayan eventually rejected the theory suggesting Galman was the prime suspect. It relied on credible testimonies given by eyewitnesses Rebecca Quijano and Jessie Barcelona who claimed that they saw the soldier behind Aquino firing a gun on the latter’s nape.
The wound of entrance (back of the neck, just below the left ear) was also higher than the wound of exit (chin) which suggests that the trajectory was downward and the assassin was positioned slightly above Aquino.
Lastly, it seems highly improbable that Galman was able to get a .357 magnum revolver and escape airport security without military assistance.
Interestingly, there were two .357 with the same serial numbers in the custody of Sandiganbayan. One of these was owned by Col. Octavio Alvarez, the former chief of the Metrocom Intelligence Group, and was reportedly stolen from him.
5. “The Five Wise Monkeys.”
Who are they? Five military officers who, under Marcos’ “Oplan Balikbayan,” were tasked to escort Aquino from the plane to Fort Bonifacio where he would be detained.
The group was composed of Corporal Rogelio Moreno, Corporal Lazaga, Sgt. Arnulfo de Mesa, Technical Sgt. Claro Lat and Lieutenant Castro.
Why are they considered suspects? According to eyewitnesses, it was the military escorts–not Galman as what earlier reports had suggested–who actually killed Aquino.
They claimed that few moments after Aquino stepped off the plane, they heard the security escorts saying “Ako na! Ako na! Ako na!” and “Pusila!” (which means an “order to shoot” in southern Filipino dialect). However, the five men denied the allegations and reiterated that they “saw nothing, heard nothing, said nothing,” which led to them being named “The 5 Wise Monkeys.”
On September 28, 1990, the Sandiganbayan handed down the verdict to the 16 soldiers–including the 5 ‘wise monkeys’–who allegedly conspired to assassinate Aquino. They were held guilty of double murder and named C1C Rogelio Moreno as the assassin.
In 2004, the 16 soldiers, with the help of Chief Public Attorney Persida R. Acosta, filed a new motion to grant them a third trial. It was denied by Supreme Court as evidenced by a 2005 resolution penned by then Justice Reynato S. Puno.
Cpl. 1st Class Mario Lazaga died of a stroke in 2008 while inside his detention cell at the National Bilibid Prisons in Muntinlupa City. The rest of the convicted soldiers, meanwhile, were granted pardon by former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in March 2009.
4. Eduardo “Danding” Cojuangco Jr.
Who is he? One of the richest men in the Philippines, Danding Cojuangco Jr. is the chairman of the San Miguel Corporation and the first cousin of the former President Corazon “Cory” Aquino.
Why is he a suspect? Cojuangco was a known Marcos crony and also a member of the “Rolex 12” who helped enforce the martial law. At that time, Cojuangco was also in conflict with Cory and his cousin-in-law Ninoy.
Cojuangco was implicated to the murder when Pablo Martinez, one of the 16 soldiers who was convicted in the Aquino-Galman case, named the former as the mastermind behind the assassination.
Martinez, who became a born again Christian in 1994, revealed in his affidavit that three top military officials assigned him to escort Galman from Carlston Hotel in Pasay City to the tarmac of the Manila International Airport on the day of the assassination.
The said officials were later identified to be Colonel Romeo Ochoco, then deputy commander of the Aviation Security Command (Avsecom), Philippine Constabulary Brigadier Gen. Romeo Gatan and businessman Herminio Gosuico.
Incidentally, Gosuico was a known associate of Danding Cojuangco, and this is when the Danding-did-it theory got started.
After he was granted a presidential pardon in 2007 on humanitarian grounds, Pablo Martinez was asked by ABS-CBN’s Julius Babao to name the real mastermind behind the double murder. He replied “Danding Cojuangco” and had since refused to retract his statement.
Martinez died on May 7, 2014, after being hit by an SUV while biking along Roxas Boulevard. Authorities said it was an accident, but his relatives believe otherwise.
3. Gen. Fabian Ver.
Who is he? Former general of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the most trusted military officer of the late President Ferdinand Marcos.
Why is he a suspect? Ver was indicted by the Agrava Commission in 1983 as the mastermind behind the Aquino-Galman case.
The Agrava Commission was established in October 1983 under the orders of President Marcos to further investigate the Aquino murder. However, the fact-finding board recommended no charges against Ver, and he was acquitted in 1985 by Marcos.
In an interview with ABS-CBN News, Gen. Ver’s son, Jun Camcam, reveals that he once asked his father if he really did kill Ninoy Aquino. Ver–who was then living in exile in Mannheim, Germany–replied, “How could you even say that? He was my brother at the University of the Philippines. And we were friends.”
He also added that Ninoy was given “special treatment” while the latter was in military detention. Ver said that the allegations against him were unfounded because he wouldn’t waste his time to “protect Ninoy and, in effect, protect the President & myself” only to later “endanger it, by ordering his death, in broad daylight.”
2. Imelda Marcos.
Who is she? Former first lady and widow of President Ferdinand Marcos.
Why is she a suspect? Imelda Romualdez-Marcos reportedly said in front of print and broadcast media that “If Aquino gets home, he’s dead.” The statement came shortly after her failed attempt in New York to convince Sen. Benigno Aquino Jr. not to return to the Philippines due to threats to his life.
At that time, Marcos was already diagnosed with lupus and Imelda was as afraid as other Marcos cronies that somebody like Ninoy would come to overthrow them. Some sources also claimed that Imelda formed a faction in anticipation of Marcos’ death and then ordered Ver to take care of Ninoy’s assassination.
1. Ferdinand Marcos.
Who is he? The 10th president of the Philippines and the political rival of the slain Sen. Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr.
Why is he a suspect? It’s a known fact that Ninoy Aquino was the late strongman’s political nemesis so it should come as no surprise that Marcos is being blamed for the senator’s untimely death.
For the Marcos supporters, however, the assassination was a mere ploy of opportunists to kick the dictator out of his throne. Why assassinate Aquino in broad daylight when he could have easily eliminated the senator by affirming the death sentence for rebellion imposed earlier?
In addition to that, Aquino and Marcos were also fraternity brothers. Such fratricide, according to Aureli Sinsuat of the Upsilon Sigma Phi, “is an affront, an insult, to the sincere fraternal bonds that have held the institution together for almost 95 years.”
As for Imelda, she still claims that her husband was too ill to plot the assassination. She also said that the American surgeon who failed to inject the anti-rejection drug to the dying President Marcos was probably part of a “grand conspiracy to ensure success of the assassination at the expense of the late President.”
Despite the allegations, President Marcos was never convicted of the crime nor was any evidence found that would directly link him to the assassination.
Another Aquino-Galman convict dies. (2008). ABS-CBN News. Retrieved 11 May 2016, from http://goo.gl/67Qlz3
In the Know: Pablo Martinez among 16 soldiers convicted of killing Aquino. (2014). Inquirer.net. Retrieved 11 May 2016, from http://goo.gl/vGtnmQ
Kentucky New Era,. (1984). Man says Galman not Aquino assassin, p. 7A. Retrieved from https://goo.gl/zgAn1C
Lirio, G. (2014). Son asked General Ver: Dad, did you kill Ninoy?. ABS-CBN News. Retrieved 11 May 2016, from
Mydans, S. (1988). Bodies unearthed in Aquino slaying. The New York Times. Retrieved from http://goo.gl/9vTMCt
Philippine Daily Inquirer,. (2005). Marcos too ill to order Ninoy killing–Imelda, p. A3. Retrieved from https://goo.gl/zggM7p
Sinsuat, A. (2012). Marcos didn’t order Ninoy’s assassination. Inquirer.net. Retrieved 11 May 2016, from http://goo.gl/flJ0A1