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Arroyo pardons ex-soldier jailed for Aquino murder.

MANILA, Nov. 22 Kyodo

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo on Thursday pardoned one of the soldiers convicted for the 1983 assassination of Sen. Benigno Aquino Jr. after serving 24 years in prison, officials said.

Pablo Salomon Martinez, a former sergeant, was freed on humanitarian grounds after reaching the age of 70 and ordered to pay damages of about $185,000.

He is the first among 16 soldiers found guilty by the court for the murder of Aquino on Aug. 21, 1983. Two have already died.

''If you are listening Madame Cory, I ask for your forgiveness,'' Martinez said, referring to Aquino's widow Corazon, who took over as president after the ouster of strongman Ferdinand Marcos.

The assassination of Aquino, a staunch Marcos critic, inspired the political opposition in the Philippines to hold massive protests against the dictator that paved the way for the so-called ''people power'' uprising in 1986 that catapulted Aquino's widow to power.

The only son of Aquino, Sen. Benigno Aquino III, criticized the Arroyo administration for granting pardon to Martinez, who has ''refused to accept his guilt'' and has shown ''no contrition for the crime.''

Martinez and his fellow convicts wrote Arroyo a letter in August, requesting a pardon. They have maintained their innocence, naming Rolando Galman as the assassin. Galman was killed by security forces escorting the former senator at that time.

The Public Attorney's Office has been seeking the release of the men under executive clemency, saying they have been in prison for more than two decades.
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Publication:Asian Political News
Date:Nov 24, 2007
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