Aquino Case Prosecution Jolted as Gen. Ver’s Testimony Is Thrown Out of Court
The court trying the Philippines armed forces chief and 25 others charged in the assassination of Benigno S. Aquino Jr. on Thursday threw out major evidence against Gen. Fabian C. Ver--his testimony before a civilian fact-finding board.
One member of the three-judge court, Justice Augusto Amores, acknowledged that the ruling may have dealt a fatal blow to the prosecution’s case against Ver, President Ferdinand E. Marcos’ most trusted military officer. Ver is accused of trying to cover up an alleged military conspiracy.
Prosecutors admit they have little other evidence against Ver and have moved to rest their case. They said they will meet to discuss the ruling’s implications.
The court also threw out the testimony of Maj. Gen Prospero Olivas and six other soldiers charged with Ver as accessories to the murder. Seventeen soldiers are accused as conspirators and one civilian as an accomplice in the Manila airport shooting of Aquino, Marcos’ chief political rival.
Aquino was gunned down on Aug. 21, 1983, on his return from voluntary exile in the United States.
‘One of Landmarks’
“The right not to be compelled to incriminate oneself is one of the great landmarks in man’s struggle to make himself civilized,” Justice Manuel Pamaran said in Thursday’s ruling.
The justices accepted as evidence all other prosecution exhibits, including two fact-finding board reports that led to the charges.
The court’s ruling on the evidence was anchored in a vaguely worded provision of a decree that Marcos issued when he created last year’s inquiry panel.
Ver and the others argued that they were not informed that they had a right to refuse to testify on grounds of self-incrimination. The prosecution contended that the eight men had that right but chose against invoking it.
“Since Ver, Olivas, et al., were not informed by the board of their constitutional right to counsel and to silence, or even given an inkling that they were under investigation for the killing of Sen. Benigno Aquino and Rolando Galman, they were in no position to give the waiver now being gratuitously ascribed to them,” the court’s ruling said.
Other Evidence Lacking
All the accused also are charged in the death of Galman, who was killed at the scene by soldiers who said Galman shot Aquino. The prosecution says Galman was a scapegoat who was set up to appear to be the killer.
Amores, who concurred in the ruling with Pamaran and the court’s third justice, Bienvenido Vera Cruz, told reporters he did not know of evidence to convict Ver other than Ver’s own testimony.
Asked if the court’s ruling could be a fatal blow, Amores said, “I think so.”
Amores said the case against Olivas was different because of ballistics and medical legal evidence that contested his contention that Aquino was shot with a .357 revolver.
Olivas, on leave as Manila’s military commander, conducted the first investigation of the crime, which concluded that Aquino was killed by Galman.
Military defense attorneys will open their case Monday unless prosecutors decide to call more witnesses.