VERA FILES FACT CHECK: Enrile asserts unproven claim about Ninoy Aquino’s ties with CPP-NPA, MNLF

(UPDATED) Former senator Juan Ponce Enrile rehashed an unproven claim that the late opposition leader Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr. “organized” the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP); its armed-wing, the New People’s Army (NPA); and, the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF).

STATEMENT

In a June 16 post with 947 words on his verified Facebook (FB) account, Enrile recounted the events that led to the proclamation of martial law in 1972, including the rise of the communist insurgency in the country. Part of the essay said:

“The CPP-NPA and the MNLF were organized by three young men: Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr., Nur Misuari and Jose Maria Sison. These three were former students in the University of the Philippines. They were allegedly supported by a country in East Asia that wanted to keep the Philippines busy.”

Source: Juan Ponce Enrile Official Facebook, 1972 Martial Law, June 16, 2021

Four days later, the same essay was published as a commentary under Enrile’s byline in The Daily Tribune, a national broadsheet newspaper.

In 2018, Enrile, who served as defense secretary of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos Sr., made a similar claim in a conversation with the latter’s son and namesake, former senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. Enrile claimed then that there was a “formal agreement” between the CPP-NPA and the Liberal Party, of which Aquino was part, against the government.

FACT

Aquino’s name was not mentioned in the “brief review of the history” of the CPP published on its 20th anniversary in 1988. Neither was the late senator cited in an article Sison wrote for the party’s 50th anniversary in 2018.

A tracker on militant organizations worldwide, maintained by Stanford University’s Center for International Security and Cooperation, listed only Sison and Bernabe “Kumander Dante” Buscayno as founders of the CPP-NPA.

In the same Stanford tracker, Aquino was not mentioned as a co-founder or organizer of the MNLF, which was established in 1972 in Malaysia to initially seek independence of the Moros in the southern part of the Philippines.

Despite Enrile’s repeated claims that Aquino “organized” the CPP-NPA with Sison, no official record has been presented to substantiate it.

Sison, founding chairperson of the CCP, said in an interview in March 2016 that Aquino “could not have been a communist or founder of the [CPP]” because he was, among others, “well known as a CIA (Central Intelligence Agency) asset from the time he was a war correspondent in Korea.” (See VERA FILES FACT CHECK: Duterte says ‘Yellows’ and ‘Reds’ should merge; that doesn’t make sense)

Aquino, in a televised interview while in prison in March 1978, denied being a CIA agent. He, however, admitted that he had sometimes exchanged information with the agency and once carried out a secret mission to Indonesia during a “CIA-backed rebellion” there in 1958, as reported by the New York Times. Aquino justified it as part of his duties as a former government official.

While Sison recognized that Aquino was “not known to be hostile to the NPA,” he said there was “no formal alliance” between them.

A similar unsubstantiated claim that Aquino talked to the Malaysian government to ask support for the CPP-NPA circulated in 2018. (See VERA FILES FACT CHECK: Online post REWRITES and DISTORTS Aquino family history)

In January this year, the Armed Forces of the Philippines spread unfounded assertions on Aquino’s communist links. (See VERA FILES FACT CHECK: AFP amplifies false, unfounded claims on Ninoy Aquino’s death, CPP ties)

Enrile’s post garnered at least 5,700 “like” and “heart” reactions and was shared 3,400 times as of July 8, and continues to be amplified by users on the platform. Meanwhile his commentary shared by the Daily Tribune on its FB page had a potential reach of about 163,000 followers.

UPDATE: In a July 11 FB post, Enrile responded to this fact check and stood by his claim, citing access to "classified sensitive 'secret documents'" and personal accounts. Read his response here.


Sources

Official Gazette of the Philippines, A History of the Philippine Political Protest

Official Gazette of the Philippines, Proclamation No. 1081, s. 1972, Sept. 23, 1972

Official Gazette of the Philippines, Declaration of Martial Law

Enrile’s two inaccurate claims

On Aquino ‘co-organizing’ CPP-NPA, MNLF


(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.)

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