U.S. Criticizes Barring of Airmen’s Affidavits in Aquino Killing
The U.S. Embassy on Monday criticized a Philippine court’s refusal to examine evidence from U.S. servicemen concerning the assassination of opposition leader Benigno S. Aquino Jr..
The embassy released a statement and copies of affidavits from six U.S. Air Force personnel about an alleged attempt by Philippine air force jets to divert a plane thought to be carrying Aquino to an airfield outside Manila.
“There was, in fact, a highly unusual degree of activity by the Philippine air force. . . . Two Philippine air force fighters were scrambled on that day,” the statement said.
Aquino was shot to death on Aug. 21, 1983, at the airport as he returned from self-imposed exile in the United States. The government claims the assassin was Rolando Galman, a purported Communist who was shot to death by soldiers moments after Aquino was killed.
Gen. Fabian C. Ver, head of the armed forces, 24 other soldiers and a civilian are charged with complicity in both killings.
The embassy’s statement rejected arguments by a court officer that the U.S. affidavits cannot be introduced in court because they were not authenticated by the Philippine Embassy in Washington. “There is no question of the authenticity of the affidavits,” the statement said.
The affidavits, which the court rejected last week, recounted how Philippine officers took over radar scopes from U.S. personnel at Wallace Air Base outside Manila as the Philippine air force scrambled the jet fighters.
Sgt. David B. Hampton said a Filipino colonel later told him that the Philippine military “wanted to divert” Aquino’s flight but that the jets failed to intercept the plane.
Some lawyers following the seven-month-old trial suggested that the affidavits could be evidence of a wider conspiracy to kill Aquino, but others speculated it might have been an attempt by a group of airmen to save him.
In testimony Monday, two soldiers named by a civilian fact-finding board as being in the best position to have shot Aquino denied involvement.
Constable Rogelio Moreno said he was not carrying a firearm and that the traces of nitrate--a component of gunpowder--that investigators found on his hands came from practice firing a day before the assassination.
Moreno was the soldier immediately behind Aquino when the former senator was shot in the back of the head as soldiers led him from his plane.
Air force Sgt. Filomeno Miranda, who was behind Moreno that day, also denied involvement in the assassination.