In the first eyewitness account of the assassination of Benigno S. Aquino Jr., a woman said today that a soldier shot the opposition leader as he descended an airline staircase.
Rebecca Quijano, 32, who eluded an earlier civilian inquiry into Aquino's Aug. 21, 1983, murder, testified before a packed courtroom at the resumption of the trial of Armed Forces Chief Gen. Fabian Ver and 25 other men charged in Aquino's slaying.
"I saw the Metrocom soldier behind Aquino holding a gun to the back of his head and then I heard a shot," Quijano said.
She was the first witness to directly contradict military claims that Aquino was shot on the Manila airport tarmac by alleged communist hit man Rolando Galman. Galman was killed by soldiers seconds after Aquino was shot.
Quijano was a passenger aboard the China Airlines jet on which Aquino returned to Manila from three years of self-exile in the United States. He returned to the Philippines against the wishes of the government of President Ferdinand E. Marcos.
Feared for Her Life
Quijano said she decided five times to testify before the commission, but backed out each time at the last minute in fear for her life.
She said she witnessed the assassination from a window near the door after plainclothesmen prevented her from following Aquino.
Quijano said that as she emerged from the plane in hysterics, a man in a T-shirt and sunglasses grabbed her by the shoulder as she was talking to reporters and told her: "Shut up or you're in trouble."
She identified the man as Col. Vicente Tigas, media relations officer of presidential security. Tigas is among 17 soldiers charged in the case.