VERA FILES FACT CHECK: Contrary to MISLEADING FB posts, Cory Aquino’s presidency was constitutional

Netizens have revived a two-year-old Facebook (FB) post saying the presidency of Corazon Aquino was “unconstitutional.” This is false.

It also claimed that senator Arturo Tolentino was the “duly elected vice president” in the 1986 snap elections, and was the “real president” after his running mate, former President Marcos, fled to Hawaii.

This is misleading. In May 1986, or three months after Marcos’ 20-year rule was put to an end by the Feb. 22-25 People Power Revolution, the Supreme Court (SC) dismissed three petitions that challenged the legitimacy of Aquino’s presidency.

The High Court referred to the Aquino administration as “a de jure government” — meaning it was in accordance with the law — and said it was the people who “have made the judgment” and “accepted” Aquino as their president.

The SC reiterated this five months later, in an Oct. 24, 1986 decision on a petition that sought a clarification on the “President and Vice-President” referred to in the transitory provisions under the then-draft of a new Constitution: whether they were Aquino and her vice president Salvador Laurel, or Marcos and Tolentino.

The SC magistrates said it was “a matter of public record and common public knowledge” that Aquino and Laurel were the “incumbent and legitimate” president and vice president that time.

Both Aquino and Laurel, and Marcos and Tolentino, were sworn into office on Feb. 25, 1986, after a snap election that historical accounts published by The Official Gazette and the Malacañang described as marred with “massive poll fraud and rampant cheating.”

Marcos’ proclamation of his victory a few days earlier was met with indignation by Aquino supporters. Later, key military officials broke away from their commander-in-chief, leading to the historic EDSA Revolution, where millions of Filipinos peacefully protested and called for Marcos’ ouster.

The misleading FB post, first published by an FB user in February 2019, featured a screenshot of another FB post that shared a report by website titled, “Look: Si Arturo Tolentino at HINDI si Cory Aquino ang Dapat naging Presidente ng Pilipinas 1986 – 1992 (Arturo Tolentino and not Cory Aquino should have been the President of the Philippines from 1986 to 1992).”

It has received over 6,100 reactions, 1,200 comments, and 51,000 shares from FB users. It has been re-shared since 2019, but it got an uptick in engagements during the first week of this month, a few days after the 35th anniversary of the People Power Revolution last Feb. 25.

At least ten netizens also reposted the screenshot of the misleading report from March 2 to March 17, with one sharing it in public FB group PROTECT THE PRESIDENT DUTERTE.

A similar claim circulated on social media as early as November 2018, and was flagged as partly false by Agence France-Presse.

(Editor’s Note: VERA Files has partnered with Facebook to fight the spread of disinformation. Find out more about this partnership and our methodology.)