VERA FILES FACT CHECK: AFP amplifies false, unfounded claims on Ninoy Aquino’s death, CPP ties

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) shared on Facebook (FB) a column published in The Manila Times that bore inaccurate claims about the late senator Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr.’s death and supposed ties to the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP).


On Jan. 31, the AFP, on its official FB page, posted the link of former film director-writer Mauro Gia Samonte’s column that day entitled, “The [UP] commune is on fire,” and quoted the piece’s opening paragraph:

“After citing just the twin factors — the capital flight which the euthanasia of Benigno Aquino Jr. caused in 1983 and the 52-year-old communist terrorist insurgency of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army [(NPA)], which Ninoy formed in tandem with Jose Maria Sison back in 1968 — that have largely contributed to the continuing retardation of the economic development of the country, and then stressing that both Ninoy and Sison are products of the University of the Philippines, I thought I said all that I had to say on why Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana is quite justified in unilaterally abrogating the UP-Department of National Defense (DND) agreement of 1989.”

Source: Armed Forces of the Philippines Official Facebook page, OPINION | Manila Times, The UP commune is on fire, Jan. 31, 2021

Four hours later, the AFP edited its post to revise the accompanying caption, removing the section it directly lifted from the opinion piece. Instead, it highlighted the “open letter” Samonte cited in his column about the termination of the 1989 accord between the University of the Philippines and DND. (See VERA FILES FACT SHEET: What the unilateral termination of the1989 UP-DND accord means)

Samonte made the same claims about Aquino in his column on Jan. 24.


The Manila Times column, which the AFP shared and initially quoted, is inaccurate on two counts.

First, Aquino was assassinated, not euthanized. His killing on Aug. 21, 1983 — which had been extensively documented by local and international media, including The New York Times, The Associated Press, ABC News, and TIME Magazine — is recorded in Philippine historical and legal accounts.

A portion of an article about the late senator published in the Official Gazette reads:

“Aquino was put through military trial, charged with murder, illegal possession of firearms, and subversion. He endured seven years of incarceration before he was allowed to seek medical treatment in the United States for a heart condition. After three years in exile, he returned to Maila, but was gunned down before he could set foot on the tarmac. His assassination started a chain of events that would eventually lead to the People Power Revolution of 1986.”

Source: Official Gazette, Ninoy Aquino, Accessed on Feb. 4, 2021

(See August 21, 1983: Voices tell the story)

Euthanasia, also called “mercy killing,” refers to the “act or practice of painlessly putting to death persons suffering from painful and incurable disease or incapacitating physical disorder or allowing them to die by withholding treatment or withdrawing artificial life-support measures,” as defined by online Encyclopedia Britannica.

Second, the claim that Aquino co-founded the CPP was denied by Sison himself, the party’s founding chairperson.

In an interview in March 2016, he said, “Ninoy Aquino could not have been a communist or founder of the [CPP],” claiming that the latter “made himself popular by harping only on issues of corruption and civil liberties.”

“He never opposed the ruling of big compradors and landlords,” Sison added. (See VERA FILES FACT CHECK: Duterte says ‘Yellows’ and ‘Reds’ should merge; that doesn’t make sense)

Aquino was not mentioned in the article Sison wrote for the CPP’s 50th anniversary in 2018 that recounted the party’s beginnings and “great achievements,” which the latter said was based on his “previous experience and on … publicly available documents.” Nor was the late senator included in the “brief review of the history” of the party, which it published in 1988.

The tracker on militant organizations worldwide maintained by Stanford University’s Center for International Security and Cooperation also does not bear out Samonte’s and the AFP’s claim.

Sison and Aquino, a Liberal Party member and leading opposition figure against the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos Sr. at the time, had been accused of plotting the Plaza Miranda bombing in August 1971.

While Sison recognized that Aquino was “not known to be hostile to the NPA,” he said the two parties had “no formal alliance.” (See VERA FILES FACT CHECK: Online posts REWRITES and DISTORTS Aquino family history)

In a July 2010 interview with GMA News TV, he said:

“There was no formal alliance between the CPP-NPA and Ninoy Aquino. By absence of a formal alliance, I mean that there was no written instrument of alliance (document) and there was no organizational form to embody the alliance. But there was an informal and objective alliance. The CPP and NPA and Ninoy were informal and practical cooperators against the Marcos regime from the late 1968 onwards up to his assassination…”


The AFP’s deceptive FB post has been shared at least 160 times, and could have reached more than 10,460 people on FB alone as of Feb. 5, according to social media monitoring tool CrowdTangle.

Samonte’s piece has garnered more than 1,900 FB interactions and has a potential reach of more than 620,600 people.



Infantile Disorder blog by Adam Ford, Interview With A Revolutionary Filipino Filmmaker, Retrieved on Feb. 6, 2021

Philippine News Agency, Photos: A WARRIOR’S BIOGRAPHY: Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) General Manager Alexander Balutan, launches his book “Mandirigma: In Wartime and in Peace,” June 14, 2018

Mauro Gia Samonte’s blog. Retrieved on Feb. 6, 2021

ABS-CBN News Online, Cristina Gonzales returns to showbiz after 15 years, Jan. 30, 2021, Former movie director accuses armed group of taking his land, May 19, 2011

The Manila Times, Op-Ed Columns: The up commune is on fire, Jan. 31, 2021

Armed Forces of the Philippines Official Facebook page, OPINION | Manila Times, Jan. 31, 2021. Retrieved on Feb. 6, 2021

The Manila Times, Op-Ed Columns: UP upturned, Jan. 24, 2021

Ninoy Aquino was assassinated, not euthanized

Ninoy Aquino CPP ties unfounded


(Guided by the code of principles of the International Fact-Checking Network at Poynter, VERA Files tracks the false claims, flip-flops, misleading statements of public officials and figures, and debunks them with factual evidence. Find out more about this initiative and our methodology.)