MANILA, Philippines — The case of the 14 soldiers imprisoned for the assassination of former senator Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr. should be reviewed for clemency, Senator Juan Ponce-Enrile told reporters Tuesday.
Enrile, who said he paid for the legal services of the soldiers during their trial, made the statement on Aquino’s 24th death anniversary.
He said the soldiers and their family have suffered enough.
But Enrile, the defense minister during that time, said the case could not be closed if new evidence would point to those actually responsible for the killing.
“We should review the real situation of these people. They were convicted by a court but whether they were really the real ones who did the act or who should be responsible is something else,” he said.
“Let the executive department exercise its power of clemency to resolve the issue of the people who were convicted for the crime, but closing a case, there is a procedure in doing that,” he added.
When asked if he knew who ordered the assassination, he said: “If I knew, I would be…That’s a difficult question.”
Enrile said he was asked to provide for the legal services of the soldiers, and because he believed that they should be given “the benefit of due process,” he shouldered the legal costs of their defense.
Fifteen soldiers of the Aviation Security Command were convicted for the double murder of Aquino and his alleged lone communist gunman, Rolando Galman. They were sentenced to double life imprisonment; one of them had died.
Aquino was shot and killed as he was escorted off an airplane at the then Manila International Airport by the Avsecom soldiers on August 21, 1983. The government at that time claimed that Galman was the assassin.
In late October 1984, a commission appointed by deposed president Ferdinand Marcos and headed by jurist Corazon Agrava found that the assassination was the result of a military conspiracy.
But in December 1985, the Sandiganbayan anti-graft court ignored the Agrava findings, upheld the government’s story, and acquitted then military chief, General Fabian Ver, 24 other military officers, and one civilian.
Although ultimate responsibility for the act had not been clearly determined, a special court convicted on Sept. 28, 1990 General Luther Custodio and 15 other officers and enlisted Avsecom members for murdering Aquino and Galman.