General Faces Accuser, Defense Charges Bias in Aquino Case
MANILA, Philippines (AP) _ A general charged in the assassination of opposition leader Benigno Aquino confronted one of his accusers in court today and said a fact-finding board had violated his constitutional rights.
Military investigator Maj. Gen. Prospero Olivas, accused of being an accessory for allegedly covering up military involvement in the assassination, acted as his own attorney in questioning board deputy counsel Francisco Villa.
Olivas, Armed Forces Chief Gen. Fabian C. Ver, 23 other soldiers and one civilian are charged in the Aug. 21, 1983, assassination of Aquino and the killing of Rolando Galman, who the military says was the assassin. Olivas’ investigation was the basis for the military version of the crime.
Aquino, President Ferdinand E. Marcos’ chief rival, was shot dead at the Manila airport as he returned from self-imposed exile in the United States. Galman was shot and killed moments later.
The 26 men were charged after an investigation by the fact-finding board.
Villa, the first member of the board’s legal panel to testify, was called as a prosecution witness to justify the board’s conclusion that Olivas’ report on the weapon that killed Aquino was misleading.
Villa acknowledged that the board never advised Olivas of his constitutional rights when he testified before the five-member panel, but said the board did not consider it necessary.
A defense motion is pending before the three-member ombudsman’s court to exclude all testimony before the board by the defendants on the grounds that it would violate constitutional protections against self-incrimination.
Speaking of himself in the third person, Olivas said: ″The records will show that Gen. Olivas was never made aware that he was a suspect when he was there to testify, and therefore he was deprived of his constitutional rights.″
Olivas asked why Villa did not ask him further questions when he discovered a false chemistry report was used to conclude that Aquino was killed by a gun allegedly fired by Galman.
″I did not attempt to call you because it would be unethical or it would be like a tipoff,″ said Villa.
The military claimed Aquino was killed with a .357 Magnum. The board concluded that the murder weapon was a .45- or .38-caliber weapon, and accused Olivas of trying to mislead it by citing only one of two chemistry reports.
Olivas noted that he presented both reports to the board.
Villa, a former police chief and National Bureau of Investigation agent, said he discovered discrepancies in the chemical reports after the board had closed its 10 months of public hearings.
Villa said he raised the idea of confronting Olivas with the new evidence but there was ″a big clamor from the public. There were demonstrations that the board was already suppressing the report and to reopen (the hearings) would have been disastrous.″
″Attorney Villa,″ said Olivas, ″when the career and integrity of a man and the probability that he will be subjected to frivolous charges is a vital issue, can time be reason for foregoing with the (need for) that particular person to explain his side?″
Villa said Olivas had a chance to present the facts of the case to the board and it was up to the board to evaluate them.
Olivas was the only defendant in the courtroom during the hearing. The court has said those charged need attend only when witnesses are called who might have to identify them.