VERA FILES FACT CHECK: This NPA guerilla is NOT Sarah Elago

A three-year-old photo of a woman with face paint wearing a guerilla uniform of the New People’s Army (NPA) and falsely identified as a sitting lawmaker continues to mislead netizens to this day. Facebook (FB) page Thinking Minds uploaded this image nearly two years ago, claiming it was Kabataan Party-list Rep. Sarah Elago and describing her as a “recruiter” of the communist rebel group.

The woman in the image is not Elago, but an NPA guerilla using the nom de guerre Comrade Katyrn. It was taken on Nov. 23, 2016 by Associated Press photographer Aaron Favila.

But the version of the image in the Thinking Minds post was pixelated, making Katryn’s face closely resemble Elago’s.

On the day Favila took the photo, Elago was at a speaking engagement at the House of Representatives in celebration of National Children’s Month, according to a post on the solon’s official Instagram account.

Elago has previously denied her association with the NPA.

Despite being nearly two years old, the Thinking Minds post gained traction this October following the budget hearing for the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency on Sept. 29 during which Elago grilled the agency’s chief Alex Monteagudo for sharing FB posts targeting members of progressive groups.

Just this July, online posts falsely quoted Elago as saying she will support the rebels “if need be.” The claim had been debunked by VERA Files Fact Check.

The NPA picture was part of a set of photos uploaded by Thinking Minds on Dec. 15, 2018, with this caption, as translated from Filipino: "This is Sarah Belago, a UP graduate, NPA recruiter and look at who her friends are, people who use people like her and her supporters.”

The other images included Elago wearing her graduation attire from the University of the Philippines, as well as pictures with members of the political opposition, Commission on Human Rights chair Chito Gascon, and other activists.

The misrepresented image has received over 600 interactions, while the whole FB album of Thinking Minds has gotten more than 2,300 reactions and over 9,000 shares.

Thinking Minds was created on Nov. 30, 2012.

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

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