Statement on the Agrava Report
October 24, 1984
The Agrava report confirms what we knew all along – that it was not Galman who shot and killed Ninoy – but that it was a military conspiracy. But the report does not answer the question which has troubled me since August 21, 1983 – “Why was Ninoy assassinated by the military?”
In trying to answer this question, I find one overriding fact very relevant:
Throughout Ninoy’s incarceration, it was clear to us that everything that concerned Ninoy had to be cleared with Mr. Marcos. As a matter of fact, when Mr. Marcos proclaimed martial law, Ninoy headed the list of persons to be detained. The records will show that Ninoy was the first to be booked in Camp Crame on the early morning of September 23, 1972. Ninoy was arrested while discharging his duties as Senator of the Republic, in palpable violation of the Constitution. Mr. Marcos exercised and insisted on complete control of everything that affected Ninoy. Nothing could be done regarding Ninoy without Marcos’ approval. Let me illustrate this with incidents which speak for themselves:
I. The Military Tribunal that tried Ninoy was under the control of Mr. Marcos:
a) Allow me to read part of Ninoy’s statement addressed to Military Commission No. 2 on August 27, 1973 where he said:
“But there is something that transcends all other considerations, something that is unique in the case against me. Two years ago, on August 24, 1971 – I was accused and pronounced guilty of the same charges by the president himself, the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces. He could have ordered the charges against me filed with the civil courts since 1971 but he did not. He waited for his own brand of martial law and ordered the creation of military tribunals. With due respect to all of you, how can this Military Commission reverse the President? Even if you want to because of your sense of justice, nonetheless under Presidential Decree No. 39 the President has the power in any case to change or reverse your decision.
Sirs, I know you to be honorable men. But the one unalterable fact is that you are the subordinates of the President. You may decide to preserve my life, but he can choose to send me to death. Some people suggest that I beg for mercy. But this I cannot in conscience do. I would rather die on my feet with honor, than live on bended knees in shame.”
b) Again, on April 4, 1975 Ninoy stated before Military Commission No. 2:
“Last March 15, 1975, a request was made by the Secretary of National Defense to Mr. Marcos for the reversion of the murder case against me to this Commission. Apparently, it was discovered by the Trial Counsel that Military Commission No. 2 lost its jurisdiction over the murder charges when General order No. 49 was issued transferring various cases to the civil courts. On March 18, 1975, Mr. Marcos issued a “secret” instruction, in his own handwriting which reads:
“Approved only for purposes of perpetuation of testimony and after which I (Marcos) will decide where, in what Court the cases will be tried.”
Both the recommendation and the secret instruction were made without my knowledge.
Last March 20, 1975, Trial Counsel wrote a memorandum to the Secretary of National Defense on the need for “an unqualified” order (to clarify the handwritten order of Mr. Marcos), and on March 26, 1975, Mr. Marcos sent an unqualified order transferring back to this Commission the murder charge – all these without my knowledge.”
c) On April 30, 1979 during his hunger strike, Ninoy addressed the Military Commission No. 2 as follows:
“Let my presence here, from here on, be a haunting reminder to Mr. Marcos that try as he must, he who is the prosecutor and the real judge of his own charges against me, can never evade responsibility for my fate or wash his hands of my blood.”
d) On August 3, 1976 Ninoy told the Military Commission:
“I am pained by your terrible dilemma. You know that this whole farce is grossly unfair. When you chose your military career years ago, you must have thought you were responding to the call of duty, honor and love of country. But now, by order of your Commander-in-Chief, you are made to play the role of grave-diggers and in the process smear your uniforms with the blood of his victims.
By my decision not to participate and defend myself in these proceedings, this farce of a trial will be swift and brief. And then, Mr. Marcos will have to make his final move.
Up to this moment, Mr. Marcos has been acting through proxies. After these proceedings, he will have to expose himself and personally decide my fate. And so be it!”
II. Minister Juan Ponce Enrile and the entire military establishment charged with Ninoy’s detention were under the control of Mr. Marcos:
a) On August 17, 1974 Ninoy was granted a home pass by Secretary Juan Ponce Enrile in connection with my oldest daughter’s birthday. Then on the very day itself, the pass was suddenly cancelled. When I inquired from the officers at Fort Bonifacio, I was informed that higher authorities had cancelled the pass given by the Secretary of Defense. Who else could possibly be higher than the Secretary of Defense?
b) An interview which appeared on page 68 of Newsweek magazine on September 23, 1974 also illustrates this point:
“Recently, NEWSWEEK’s Arthur Zich Jr. became the first reporter to talk with Aquino since his imprisonment. With the personal authorization of President Marcos, Zich was taken to Fort Bonifacio outside Manila and allowed to spend an hour alone with Aquino, now 42.”
c) On October 1, 1976 Ninoy wrote to Mr. Marcos after he had been informed that Mr. Marcos had authorized the Commission on Elections to invite Senator Raul Manglapus to come back to the Philippines:
October 1, 1976
Mr. Ferdinand Marcos
Thru: THE COMMANDING GENERAL
I have been informed you have authorized the Commission on Elections to invite former Senator Raul Manglapus to come back to the Philippines under a guaranteed safe-conduct pass and participate in the public debates on the issues involved in the coming October 16 referendum-plebiscite.
Two weeks ago, I was also informed, you told members of the Manila Rotary Club that you have been missing the rough and tumble of political debates.
You do not have to wait for Mr. Manglapus to return nor is it necessary for you to go abroad to find opposition to your martial law regime. I am ready and willing to debate with you and I do not need any safe-conduct pass. All I ask is that I be allowed to speak freely.
So that the nation can profit from it, may I suggest that you order a full radio-TV coverage and that the debate be held in that traditional and historic forum of our people: Plaza Miranda.
In the crucible of our debate, you can tell our people about the so-called achievements of martial law. I am prepared to tell our people the simple truth about its reality.
The fact that I am a detainee – on your own orders – should not disqualify me from debating with you. Both the old and the new Constitutions provide that I am presumed innocent until found guilty by a competent, independent and impartial tribunal.
So that our people may know the whole truth about martial law, I trust you will not deny them this opportunity to hear both sides of the question – your side and the side of one who can speak about it out of his own experience.
BENIGNO S. AQUINO, JR.
Mr. Marcos did not answer Ninoy’s letter. Instead my children and I were informed on October 12, 1976 that our visits had been suspended. I wrote to Secretary Juan Ponce Enrile on October 26, 1976, November 12, 1976, November 21, 1976, December 1, 1976 and December 6, 1976 requesting for visiting privileges. On November 2, 1976 I was able to talk to Secretary Juan Ponce Enrile in his office and I asked him to please restore our visiting privileges. He suggested that I write to President Marcos directly.
d) On June 21, 1977 Ninoy was brought to Malacañang and was able to talk to Mr. Marcos in the presence of Secretary Juan Ponce Enrile, Secretary Francisco Tatad, Solicitor General Estelito Mendoza and General Josephus Ramas. During their conversation, Ninoy told Mr. Marcos that he was not fully informed of the sentiments of the Filipino people with respect to martial law since he was not even allowed to read newspapers. Mr. Marcos then ordered General Josephus Ramas to allow Ninoy to read the metropolitan dailies.
III. The conditions of his release and his travel papers after release were under the control of Mr. Marcos:
a) On June 9, 1978, Secretary Juan Ponce Enrile, Secretary Vicente Abad Santos and Solicitor General Estelito Mendoza came to Fort Bonifacio. Senator Lorenzo Tanada and the LABAN group were also allowed to come. A meeting was held at the Campos Hall of Fort Bonifacio. Secretary Enrile told Ninoy that Mr. Marcos had agreed to release him by amnesty grant but that Ninoy should leave the country and go into exile. Ninoy was also asked to write a letter to Mr. Marcos promising that he will not engage in any activity that will tarnish the image of the government. I myself asked Secretary Enrile when we would be allowed to leave the country and he answered: “by the end of the month”. I still remember how excited and happy we all were and Ninoy started sending home his books and other personal belongings. Our excitement soon died down when we saw Ninoy still a prisoner in Fort Bonifacio not only until the end of June, but for many, many more months thereafter. AS most of you know, it was only on May 8, 1980 that Mr. Marcos finally allowed us to leave.
b) At the time of Gerry Roxas’ death in April 1982 in New York City, Ninoy met and talked with Imelda Marcos. Ninoy requested her to help him secure an extension of his passport. Imelda Marcos did take his passport and that was the last Ninoy ever saw of it.
The following year on May 21, 1983 Ninoy again met with Imelda Marcos and he informed her of his plan to return home. Again, he reminded her of his passport. Inspite of his repeated requests for travel documents from the Philippine Consulate General in New York through his lawyer Atty. Ernie Maceda, the only reply he got was a telegram from Minister Juan Ponce Enrile asking him to delay his return.
In the light of all of these, are we now to believe that Mr. Marcos is innocent of the death of Ninoy in the hands of the military under his control? Are we now going to believe that the assassination of Ninoy was planned and executed without Mr. Marcos’ foreknowledge or expressed approval?
Or that Mr. Marcos was kept in complete ignorance of what was going to be done to Ninoy?
Wasn’t Ninoy’s assassination a political decision of the gravest import so that no military man, no matter how high in authority, would think of making that decision on his own?
Can Mr. Marcos, in Ninoy’s words, “wash his hands of my blood”?
Before I end this statement, I would like to thank the Filipino people with all my heart for helping me seek justice for Ninoy.
Let us continue in our demand for justice – for Ninoy and for all the victims of this oppressive regime.
May God have mercy on all of us!