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1983: Filipino opposition leader shot dead

VIDEO : Benigno Aquino is assassinated minutes after leaving his plane

The Philippines opposition leader, Benigno Aquino, has been assassinated just minutes after returning home from exile.

Mr Aquino, 50, had spent the last three years in the US but was returning home to contest next year's expected elections.


"If it's my fate to die by an assassin's bullet, so be it"

Benigno Aquino

Speaking aboard the plane returning him to Manila, Mr Aquino told reporters he was well aware of the risk he was taking.

"I suppose there's a physical danger because you know assassination's part of public service," he said.

"My feeling is we all have to die sometime and if it's my fate to die by an assassin's bullet, so be it."

When his plane landed at Manila airport Mr Aquino was taken into custody by soldiers and escorted off the plane.

Shortly afterwards witnesses on the plane said a volley of shots rang out and they saw him lying in a pool of blood on the runway tarmac.

'Professional killer'

The body of the man said to have been the assassin was nearby.

Mr Aquino's long-time rival, Philippines dictator Ferdinand Marcos, has said the assassin was a "professional killer".

But his claim that Mr Aquino was the victim of a lone gunman has not convinced many in the Philippines or the wider world.

The opposition parties in the Philippines are in disarray after nearly 20 years of rule under Ferdinand Marcos.

But it was widely expected that Mr Aquino would be able to unite them and mount a challenge to President Marcos in next year's elections.

Before his self-imposed exile he looked set for presidency after becoming the country's youngest member of parliament at the age of 35.

But after the imposition of martial law in 1972 he was labelled a Communist by President Marcos and imprisoned for seven years.

Three years after being sentenced to death for subversion in 1977 he was offered the chance to leave the country for heart surgery in the US.

After his treatment he did not return and became a focal point for dissidents in the US.

In Context
Millions of Filipinos rallied at Benigno Aquino's funeral in what was the start of a mass challenge to President Marcos.

Three years later the opposition parties united behind Mr Aquino's widow, Corazon, in her challenge for the presidency.

In spite of evidence to the contrary, Ferdinand Marcos was declared the winner.

But a popular revolt forced him and his wife, Imelda, to flee the country.

He died in exile in 1993.

Corazon Aquino was president of the Philippines for six years.

In September 1990 a special court convicted 16 Filipino military personnel of murdering Mr Aquino and his "assassin" Ronaldo Galman.


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