Did Galman kill Ninoy?

Professor Jerome Bailen and Dr. Benito Molino (Letter to the Editor, April 7) challenge the judicial decisions cited in my March 15 column that the murder of Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr. was a military conspiracy. They insist that “only Rolando Galman (not anyone of the military escorts on the stairway) could have fired, on the tarmac, the shot that killed Ninoy Aquino.”

Long-rejected theory. Their “Galman-did-it” theory, earlier postulated by the Marcos government and the convicts, had been repeatedly and unanimously rejected by:

(1) The Agrava Board composed of retired Justice Corazon Agrava (chair), lawyer Luciano Salazar, businessman Dante Santos, labor leader Ernesto Herrera and educator Amado Dizon. Although Agrava dissented on the involvement of General Fabian Ver, she nonetheless concurred that Rolando Galman was not the gunman. This conclusion was reached after the Board held 125 sessions, heard 194 witnesses and consumed 20,377 pages of transcript. It was courageously made when Ferdinand Marcos was still the president.

(2) The Sandiganbayan, composed of Justices Regino C. Hermosisima Jr., Jose S. Balajadia and Cipriano A. del Rosario. It conducted full-blown trials in which the accused were given all the opportunity to present witnesses, including forensic experts of their choice. A panel of no-nonsense trial lawyers, including Rodolfo U. Jimenez, represented them.

The 177-page decision, dated Sept. 28, 1990 and written by Justice Hermosisima, dissected this “Galman-did-it” defense but chose to believe the expert forensic testimonies of Dr. Pedro Solis, Dr. Ceferino Cunanan and others as well as the many credible eyewitnesses who testified that CIC Rogelio B. Moreno (who was behind Ninoy Aquino on the ramp stairway) pulled the trigger.

(3) The Supreme Court that affirmed the Sandiganbayan decision on July 23, 1991 was composed of Chief Justice Marcelo B. Fernan, Justices Andres R. Narvasa, Ameurfina A. Melencio-Herrera, Hugo E. Gutierrez Jr., Isagani A. Cruz, Edgardo L. Paras, Florentino P. Feliciano, Emilio A. Gancayco, Teodoro R. Padilla, Abdulwahid A. Bidin, Abraham F. Sarmiento, Carolina C. Griño-Aquino, Leo D. Medialdea, Florenz D. Regalado and Hilario G. Davide Jr. (Fernan and Narvasa took no part.)

Same theory, same ruling. In August 2004, the convicted military men through their new counsel, Persida R. Acosta, filed a new motion asking the Supreme Court for a new trial on the main ground of alleged “newly discovered evidence” consisting mainly of a forensic study showing that Galman, not Moreno, fired the fatal bullet. Bailen, Molino et al. authored this forensic study.

On March 8, 2005 however, the Supreme Court in a unanimous, repeat unanimous, resolution written by Justice (now Chief Justice) Reynato S. Puno, denied the motion because it merely rehashed an old theory based on the same evidence already passed upon adequately by the Sandiganbayan and by the Supreme Court.

The Puno ruling was concurred in by Chief Justice Hilario G. Davide Jr., Justices Artemio V. Panganiban, Leonardo A. Quisumbing, Consuelo Ynares-Santiago, Angelina Sandoval-Gutierrez, Antonio T. Carpio, Ma. Alicia Austria-Martinez, Renato C. Corona, Romeo J. Callejo Sr., Adolfo S. Azcuna, Dante O. Tinga, Minita V. Chico-Nazario and Cancio C. Garcia (Conchita Carpio Morales was on leave.)

Irrelevant, arrogant, errant. Based on the above antecedents, I am aghast that Bailen and Molino had the gall to say “It is understandable for the former chief justice to defend the Court that blocked the reopening of the case during his tenure as chief justice.”

This is pure nonsense. It was the Davide Court, not the Panganiban Court, which dumped their study. The Court did not block the reopening; rather, Bailen and Molino miserably failed to convince the Court—not even one justice—to reopen the case. Their fault, not mine. Yet they fume at me. “Defend the Court?” Defense not needed. Nobody was attacking it. Till they surfaced. I was just quoting excerpts to show “Who killed Ninoy Aquino.”

The duo’s denigration of my book “The Bio-Age Dawns on the Judiciary” which allegedly “pompously trumpets” the judiciary’s entry to the “Modern Age of Science” is an extravagant irrelevancy. The book did not mention the Aquino case at all. Neither did it discuss forensic medicine. It took up the impact of genetic engineering, cloning, stem cells and the other new sciences on laws and legal doctrines.

They berated me for not defending their theory that the fatal bullet had an upward trajectory, entering the nape, deflected downwards by the cranium and exiting in the mandible. Why should I uphold an outlandish idea completely debunked by more plausible contrary evidence that the bullet’s trajectory was straight from the nape to the mandible?

Their reckless attack on the justices for allegedly betraying “an obdurate and unforgivable ignorance or irremediable idiocy” in rejecting their work is sheer bigotry and arrogance. The two are not the only source of truth; other forensic experts had been aptly judged to be more credible than they.

If they cannot even correctly identify the Court that allegedly “blocked the reopening” of the Aquino case, how can they be believed on matters that require more care and probity? No wonder, not one member of the Aquino family believes the “Galman-did-it” defense peddled by Marcos, the convicts and, belatedly, the Bailen-Molino duo. Whom will the public believe, the errant duo or all the above named men and women of the law?

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Retired Chief Justice Panganiban writes a weekly column, With Due Respect, every Sunday. He submitted this Commentary to “clear the air” about judicial decisions regarding the Aquino assassination.


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