TWENTY one years have passed since that fateful day of August 21, 1983. Ninoy Aquino’s assassination sent forth a shock wave that even now continues to impact on our lives and our history. Yet, the unsolved story of who was behind the killing continues to be on an apparently deliberate standstill.
Recently, one of the soldiers in jail offered to reveal what he supposedly knows. Interestingly, the former Master Sergeant Pablo Martinez volunteered a titillating bit of information by insinuating that the mastermind is someone close to former President Cory Aquino.
To me, this is incredible. This well-timed information that comes in the guise of a reluctant leak only confirms that whoever is behind the assassination continues to wield control over these soldiers. Doesn’t this remind you of the extreme loyalty of Mafia members who will not break the Omerta code of silence even under duress or incarceration? There are two compelling reasons why members of the Mob choose to observe Omerta.
1. Their families are taken care of while they serve time.
2. Their lives, as well as those of their loved ones, are in gravest danger from the dreaded sweeping and ruthless Mafia retaliation.
Grizzled veteran that I am, I am only too sure that the offer to expose the identity of the mastermind in the person of someone close to former president Cory Aquino is designed to cover tracks and mislead, the same way that they had used Rolando Galman to be the patsy.
There is hardly any debate that whoever ordered the assassination had to be someone very high in the power structure of the dictatorship, with Ferdinand Marcos as the number 1 suspect. The subsequent commissions who investigated the assassination already debunked the Rolando Galman (as the gunman) theory and ruled it a cover up. With that finding, the culpability was established – it was either Marcos or persons in the inner circle who can order such an operation.
Those who believe Marcos could not have ordered the assassination rest their case on:
1. That Marcos was too smart not to realize the repercussions of such an act.
2. That Marcos was too sick at the time, incapacitated likely. And that the people around Marcos with a stake in the succession, who believed that Aquino’s homecoming would jeopardize their succession to power, took it upon themselves to order it. In this scenario, the favorite suspect was former First Lady Imelda Marcos.
I personally believe that Marcos’ own infirmity and the very nature of his end stage renal failure (also known as chronic kidneys) make it likely for him to have ordered the assassination. I speak from my own experience with the ailment, after having undergone 25 months of hemodialysis and now on my 29th month with a transplanted kidney.
Those who say that Marcos was too smart and too sick not to have ordered it do not consider these realities:
1. A terminal disease like end stage renal failure affects a person’s disposition. Despite dialysis treatment, the continuous build-up of unprocessed toxins that the failed kidneys are unable to remove is more than enough to cause bad judgment and decisions. However, the ailment does not prevent the patient from making judgments and decisions.
2. Threatened with an imminent upheaval at a time when he feels weakest and most vulnerable, a person in such a state can easily order the killing of the one man who posed the greatest threat to his regime.
3. But even with end stage renal failure – said to have started in 1976 – Marcos had been able to maintain a façade that seemed to show that he had full capability to govern. Unlike a stroke or a massive heart attack, many still maintain normal activities despite undergoing hemodialysis.
4. And on the day of a kidney transplant or the day after it – Marcos would still have been able to function as Commander-in-Chief and can order the assassination. When Marcos took that vacation leave which prompted Aquino to return, Marcos would never have been out of commission so as to be unable to order the assassination. Kidney transplantation is a rather simple procedure. Many who undergo a kidney transplant operation are even kept awake and can engage doctors in conversation during the procedure.
5. The fact that Marcos was on national television the day after the assassination proves his state of health days before the crime was committed.
6. Marcos never relinquished or delegated his Commander-in-Chief power. Not to Imelda, not to Juan Ponce-Enrile, not to Fabian Ver. He was too smart and a good student of history to ever do that. Enrile and Ver were there as Defense Minister and AFP Chief of Staff, respectively, in order to carry out Marcos orders but never to take his place in making those orders.
These factors relating to his condition support the theory that Marcos never ceased to be Commander-in Chief. Whether Marcos was under either pre (hemodialysis) or post kidney transplant conditions, he was capable of ordering the military operation. And the airport operation was of such elaborate and sophisticated planning that it could not have been done without the orders of Marcos. Gen. Fabian Ver – who would never undertake such a deed on his own – was the only other man who could have ordered that Oplan.
The possibility that the assassination was an Imelda Marcos - Fabian Ver collusion is only believable IF Marcos was not on top of his mental faculties. However, as pointed out, neither hemodialysis nor kidney transplantation would have rendered Marcos in such a state of incapacity. His sickness would have affected his normal judgment but it would not have rendered him incapable of continuing to make decisions and to be in command.
Furthermore, to say that Marcos was too smart not to have anticipated the fallout of the assassination is tantamount to Monday morning quarterbacking. One can assume that only because one had seen the fallout. But for Marcos, who had gotten away with what the Brits like to call ‘bloody murder’ under a Martial Law regime well into its 11th year when the assassination happened, the more likely situation was that of a strongman making a fatally gross miscalculation after having had his way for so long a time.
Many who try to analyze historical events commit the mistake of losing sight of the factors that existed during the time the event or historic judgment was made. Or they err by assuming that the historic figures thought like them or have their sense of values.
That Marcos may not have anticipated the fallout that eventually led to his ouster can be due to the following factors:
1. Outside of the Communist and Muslim rebellions which were nowhere knocking on the doors of Malacanang, nothing posed a serious challenge to the Marcos regime. The Laban noise barrage of 1978 was just about the most dramatic demonstration of opposition to the regime. The moderates, to which Aquino belonged, represented all-noise insofar as Marcos was concerned – no real muscle or steel that would threaten Marcos. Rather, it was Aquino who Marcos feared because Aquino can galvanize support and transform the moderates into a serious threat.
2. Other than the effects of his sickness on his judgment, his cordon sanitaire likely fed him the wrong info. Faulty decisions are made from faulty premises. A muzzled press serves the dictator well in eliminating dissent but it also deprives him of knowing the public pulse.
Corruption from absolute power and distorted judgment from chronic kidneys would have made just the right combination to conclude that Marcos had ordered Ninoy Aquino assassinated. It was an act of a man miserably sick with a terminal disease and inebriated by the wine of absolute power for over a decade – who now faced the dreaded return of his greatest political nemesis.
You may email William M. Esposo at: firstname.lastname@example.org