Doubts cast on official version of Aquino killing

Information obtained by The Christian Science Monitor conflicts with a portion of the version of the Aquino murder given by a government official. In a television presentation Wednesday, Gen. Prospero Olivas, the officer in charge of investigations into the Aug. 21 assassination of Benigno Aquino, said the government did not know on which plane the political opposition leader was arriving. The general said that government security men had checked a number of incoming planes before the arrival of the China Airlines flight carrying Aquino from Taipei. These checks had allowed the alleged assassin and any accomplices to observe the pattern of security operations for each plane, and to plan the murder accordingly, he added.

But an airport source interviewed Thursday said that approximately 90 minutes before Aquino's plane landed, official photographers and a government television team had been told to take up position at the gate where the China Airlines plane parked. It was Col. Vicente Tigas, chief of the security information unit of the presidential palace's Media Affairs Office, who told them to do this.

The photographers were reportedly barred from approaching the plane door and thus were unable to see the killing. Nonetheless, it was possible for photographers to see the security measures being taken around the plane by the security men, according to this source.

The source stated that troops ringed the plane before taking Aquino off -- a claim that, if correct, would have made it difficult to miss seeing a killer hidding under the stairs leading from the plane to the tarmac. General Olivas suggested that the alleged assassin had hidden behind these stairs.

The source adds that two people were allowed up to the plane door before Aquino disembarked - Colonel Tigas and Luis Tabuena, the airport manager. They might, therefore, have been in a position to witness the killing.

A reenactment of the killing took place at the airport Thursday. Only official photographers were invited, it seems. A reliable source says that at the end of the reenactment, an officer confiscated the film.

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