Philippine Court Convicts 16, Acquits 20 in Slaying of Aquino's Husband

Associated Press

A court today convicted 16 people of murdering President Corazon Aquino's husband and acquitted 20 others in the 1983 slaying at the Manila airport .

"I think not only I but the entire Filipino people have been waiting for the decision of the court," Corazon Aquino told reporters.

The verdict in the 3 1/2-year trial was announced on the first anniversary of the death in exile of former President Ferdinand E. Marcos, who many Filipinos believe ordered the slaying of Sen. Benigno (Ninoy) Aquino, considered his chief political rival.

The anti-graft court sentenced the 16 to life imprisonment and ordered them to pay $300,000 to the late senator's heirs.

Those convicted included Brig. Gen. Luther Custodio, former chief of the airport security command who is terminally ill with cancer. Among those acquitted was Rep. Jose Aspiras, former tourism minister, former Air Transport Minister Jose Singson and Col. Arturo Custodio, former commander of Villamor Air Base.

Aquino was shot to death on Aug. 21, 1983, as he stepped from a China Airlines jet that brought him back to Manila after three years' exile in America. He had returned to challenge Marcos for leadership of the country. Marcos claimed that Aquino was slain by an alleged Communist assassin, Rolando Galman, who was himself shot to death moments after Aquino died.

The 16 were also convicted of killing Galman.

Aquino's killing galvanized the opposition against Marcos and set the stage for the 1986 "people's power revolution" that toppled Marcos and propelled Aquino's widow into the presidency.

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