Report Bribe Offer, Threats To Assassination Case Witness
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) _ A woman who testified at the trial of defendants accused of assassinating Philippines opposition leader Benigno Aquino says she was offered bribes if she would change her testimony, a newspaper reported Sunday.
Rebecca Quijano testified at the trial that ended last month in Manila that she was a passenger on the plane that carried Aquino to Manila Aug. 21, 1983, after three years of self-imposed exile in the United States, and saw a soldier shoot him on the plane’s stairway.
Ms. Quijano said in an interview Saturday that she was offered two million pesos, the equivalent of $100,000, a free house in the Philippines and a private plane to fly her anywhere in the world ″if she would change her prosecution testimony,″ The San Francisco Examiner reported in Sunday’s editions.
″I was scared, really scared,″ said Ms. Quijano, 33. ″I was weighing what to do, calling my sister (in California) three and four times a day.″
A verdict in the case was to be handed down Monday by a three-judge court. Twenty-five military men, including armed forces Chief of Staff Fabian Ver, and a civilian were charged in the killing. Ver has been a close ally of Philippines President Ferdinand Marcos.
The Examiner quoted Ms. Quijano as saying a high-ranking U.S. official, whom she identified as Consul General Vernon McAnich, met regularly with her and was aware of the alleged bribe attempt.
She said McAnich helped her and her brother obtain U.S. visas and the newspaper said she was staying in Sunnyvale, Calif. Efforts to locate her by phone for further comment Sunday were unsuccessful.
Ms. Quijano testified May 2 that after Aquino was gunned down, an officer threatened her in the airport lounge and warned her to keep quiet. She was called back to the witness stand for defense cross-examination June 6.
She told the Examiner that between the two court appearances pressure intensified from people she described as intermediaries.
″I couldn’t even go out in public,″ she said.
She said that the night before the cross-examination she was given a cardboard box containing the money and labelled ″Philippine Central Bank,″ a government institution. She said she also was handed answers to give in court, but that she stuck to her story at the trial.
Ms. Quijano’s sister in Sunnyvale, Cielo Ulpindo, said she got telephone calls from Manila up to June 6.
″They called me at my restaurant, at home, at my mother’s. They were begging,″ she said. ″They even wrote me a letter asking why I didn’t get Rebecca to go along with the deal. Why was I preventing her from having a new life, from getting all that money?″
Ms. Quijano said that two weeks after her final court appearance, following a harrowing arrest on false charges, she managed to leave Manila for the United States on a temporary visa and later received a resident alien with the help of McAnich.