The Supreme Court today voided the acquittal, in what it called “the nontrial of the century,” of 26 people charged in the 1983 assassination of President Corazon Aquino’s husband and ordered a new trial.
In a 50-page decision written by Chief Justice Claudio Teehankee, the court said the acquittal of Gen. Fabian C. Ver, then armed forces chief, 24 other military men and one civilian was reached in a sham trial orchestrated by ousted President Ferdinand E. Marcos.
A new trial in the slaying of opposition leader Benigno Aquino is needed “so that the truth may be finally known and justice done to all,” the Supreme Court said.
Seven justices joined Teehankee in voting to invalidate the earlier trial, and the court’s three other justices disqualified themselves from the deliberations.
The acquittals were “without parallel and precedent in our annals and jurisprudence,” the Supreme Court said, adding that it “cannot allow such a sham trial and verdict and travesty of justice to go unrectified.”
The court said records of the case showed “that from beginning to end, (Marcos) used, or more precisely, misused the overwhelming resources of the government and his authoritarian powers to corrupt and make a mockery of the judicial process.”
Aquino, a former senator, was shot while in military custody at Manila airport on Aug. 21, 1983, the day he returned from three years of voluntary exile in the United States.
The assassination triggered mass protests that eventually led to the church-backed military revolt in February that ended Marcos’ 20-year rule and swept Aquino’s widow to power.
Marcos and Ver fled to exile in Hawaii.
In its Dec. 2 verdict, the court trying the 26 defendants ruled that the opposition leader was killed by Rolando Galman, an alleged communist agent whom soldiers fatally shot on the airport tarmac.
The trial’s chief prosecutor, Manual Herrera, claimed after Marcos’ ouster that the deposed ruler orchestrated the acquittal, and lawyers for the Galman family petitioned the high court for a new trial.
The Supreme Court’s decision came a month after a fact-finding commission recommended a mistrial declaration, saying it found evidence that Marcos orchestrated the acquittals.
The fact-finding commission cited the stationing in the courtroom of soldiers disguised as court sheriffs and a television camera bearing a presidential seal that was installed inside the courtroom and that monitored every minute of the proceedings.