A court Friday convicted 16 soldiers in the murder of President Corazon Aquino's husband but failed to say who ordered the assassination that set the stage for the 1986 revolution.
The impact of the decision was further clouded by the court's acquittal of 20 people in the 1983 slaying of Sen. Benigno "Ninoy" Aquino, the country's top opposition leader at the time.Other defendants, including a former military chief of staff, have fled the country to avoid prosecution.
The verdict in the 31/2-year trial was announced on the first anniversary of the death of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos, who many Filipinos believe ordered the Aquino's slaying.
The assassination outraged many Filipinos and heralded the 1986 popular uprising that toppled Marcos and catapulted Mrs. Aquino to power.
The three-judge court sentenced the 16 convicted defendants to life imprisonment and ordered them to pay $300,000 to the late senator's heirs. It was unclear if that figure is a total or if each defendant is expected to pay that sum.
Aquino was cut down by gunfire on Aug. 21, 1983, moments after returning from self-imposed exile in the United States to challenge Marcos. He had just stepped off a China Airlines jet that brought him back to Manila to challenge Marcos for leadership of this nation.
"I think not only I, but the entire Filipino people have been waiting for the decision of the court," Mrs. Aquino told reporters after Friday's verdict.
Later, she said she had become frustrated by the slow pace of the proceedings and as president would refrain from "expressing my true feelings" about the verdict.
Marcos claimed Aquino was slain by an alleged Communist assassin, Rolando Galman, who was himself shot to death moments after Aquino. The 16 were also convicted in the slaying of Galman.
Marcos died in exile in Hawaii on Sept. 28, 1989.
The court said it could not convict Ferdinand Marcos and his wife, Imelda, because "there has been no evidence to prove a prima facie case against them."
Those convicted included Brig. Gen. Luther Custodio, former chief of the airport security command. He is terminally ill with cancer. The rest of the convicted were security guards on the tarmac of Manila's airport when Aquino's plane arrived.
Chief defense lawyer Rodolfo Jimenez said the 16 would appeal to the Supreme Court.