‘Pusila, Pusila!’

To a Cebuano Binisaya speaker like me, those words remain ingrained in my mind forty years after the assassination of Ninoy Aquino by a Marcos-led military/civilian conspiracy. Because I can understand the vile urgency of such words – “shoot him!” said twice — they remain the most iconic to me of August 21, 1983.

Each time my long memory recalls the words “Pusila, Pusila!” I can still recollect the manner it was said, the impatient heave of the voice that uttered it, sounding like it had wanted very much to accomplish what it was mandated to do.

Because there truly was a mandate to kill Ninoy Aquino as he stepped down from that China Airlines Flight 811 on that fateful Sunday in August 1983.

The .357 Magnum that was used to kill him was shot point blank only at a mere distance of 18 inches from the back of his head. The bullet entered below his left ear and at a downward trajectory, exited at the chin. There was only one military escort who was behind and above Ninoy’s left as he was held down the stairway of the air-bridge. Constable Rogelio Moreno was Ninoy’s assassin.

But who ordered the assassin Moreno to kill Ninoy?

There were seven eyewitnesses to the killing. All their testimonies corroborated that Ninoy was shot at the stairway. And yet the Marcos conjugal dictatorship all the while chose to lie, that it was the fall guy Rolando Galman who pulled the trigger. All seven eyewitnesses saw that Galman could not have done so because he was in the company of military soldiers who he had even bantered with jovially as Ninoy was being led down the stairway. Besides, the bullet came from above Ninoy, not on ground level by Galman who was facing him.

Ferdinand Marcos was lightning-speed quick. On the evening of August 21, 1983, the narrative was already set – he said on TV that Ninoy was killed by a communist hitman who had penetrated the airport premises despite the 1,000 soldiers deployed under Oplan Balikbayan. Marcos was the first troll that invented the fake news of Ninoy’s murder.

Unknown to the five military members of the boarding party, Time Magazine correspondent Sandra Burton, one of several journalists who had travelled with Ninoy on that fateful flight, had left her tape recorder on after the boarding party had fetched him from the plane cabin to the stairway on the air-bridge. Burton kept on recording even after the gunshot was captured. By that time, there was pandemonium inside the plane cabin.

Burton was called to testify, among the close to 200 witnesses who testified before the Agrava Fact-Finding Board. The tape was a virtual case of voices telling the story of the Aquino assassination. The Sandra Burton Tape then remained in the custody of the Sandiganbayan.

In 1984, Matsumi Suzuki, a Japanese acoustics expert, analyzed the Burton Tape and examined its voice recordings. Testifying in Tokyo before the Agrava Board where it heard testimonies from Japanese journalists who were on the flight, Suzuki concluded that the person who said “Pusila, Pusila” matches the sound record of Lt. Jesus de Castro, commander of the military boarding party.

Let us recall again the names of the five in the boarding party. They were 2nd Lt. Jesus de Castro, Sergeant Claro Lat, Master Sergeant Pablo Martinez, Constable 1st Class Mario Lazaga, and the gunman Constable Rogelio Moreno. The Sandiganbayan convicted all on September 27, 1990 together with 11 others. The Supreme Court affirmed the conviction on July 23, 1991.

Gloria Macapagal Arroyo granted them pardon in March 2009. Did she act out of pique after Cory Aquino joined street protests over her Hello Garci scandal?

Only one man had the ultimate benefit from a massive conspiracy to kill Ninoy, not to mention the means to mount such a gigantic operation. Only one man continued to peddle the lie of Rolando Galman as the assassin. No one else had the authority to call on such cast of actors to join the conspiracy. Of course it was only the dictator Ferdinand Marcos.

“As far as I am concerned, those soldiers are not the killers of Ninoy,” said ousted president Joseph Estrada.

Persida Rueda Acosta of the Public Attorney’s Office said she commissioned a study that concluded the gunman was Rolando Galman.

Forty years after the Ninoy Aquino assassination, Marcos is still acquitted of his crimes because we have killers of the rule of law who shouldn’t even for a nanosecond work in government, much less aspire to become a senator.

The views in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of VERA Files.