VERA FILES FACT CHECK: Robin Padilla misleadingly links Beirut blast to terrorism to justify PH anti-terror law

Actor Robin Padilla, a vocal supporter of President Rodrigo Duterte, justified the enactment of the controversial Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 by insinuating that the massive port explosion that ravaged Lebanon’s capital Beirut was as an act of terrorism.


A day after the Aug. 4 incident, Padilla posted on Instagram a screenshot of a news report about the blast, which damaged multiple properties and killed over 170 people in Beirut, with the caption:


“Ito ang masasakit na ganap na dapat ay magsilbing babala at aral sa mga bansang may mataas na threat ng Terrorismo katulad ng Inangbayan (sic) Pilipinas. Ngayon malinaw na sa ating lahat kung bakit kinailangang higit na maisabatas ang Anti Terrorism Law. Umabot na po sa ganito ang kalupitan ng tao sa kanyang kapwa. Wala ng awa ang mga Terorista sa sibilyan…

(This is one of the most painful events that must serve as a warning to countries with a high threat of terrorism[,] like my motherland Philippines. It is now clear to all of us why we need the Anti-Terrorism Law. Humans have reached this kind of cruelty toward their fellows. Terrorists have no more mercy to civilians…)”

Source: Robin Padilla official Instagram account, “Ito ang masasakit na ganap na dapat ay magsilbing babala at aral sa mga bansang…,” Aug. 5, 2020

The actor then linked another news article that quoted United States President Donald Trump, who contradicted his own defense officials in claiming the explosion appeared to be a “terrible attack.”

Padilla added in the comments section:

“[L]ibo libong toneladang fertilizer ang nakalagak at hindi po ito Basta na lang sasabog sigurado po may nag ignite dito para magkaganyan. (There were thousands of tons of fertilizers stored there. These would not just blow up without someone igniting them).”


The Lebanese government has yet to establish what exactly caused the explosion of at least 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrates — a crystal-like white chemical compound used to make fertilizers or explosives— stored in the Port of Beirut.

A day after the explosion, which generated a tremor equivalent to a 3.3 magnitude earthquake, the government formed an administrative investigation committee, led by Lebanese President Michel Aoun with select security and justice officials as members, to investigate and submit a report on the incident within five days, Aug. 11.

The committee was also tasked to identify “negligent” officials in its report to be submitted to court so that “maximum levels of sanctions” may be imposed against those who will be proven responsible. At least 16 officials, including customs officers, have since been placed under house arrest.

With investigations still ongoing, Aoun, on Aug. 16, said matters related to the blast “are very intertwined and require some time” to investigate. Earlier, on Aug. 11, he signed a decree referring the “bombing crime” to the country’s Supreme Judicial Council.

Lebanese officials blamed the deadly blast to the confiscated ammonium nitrates detonated by a fire that razed the Beirut port warehouse where the chemical stockpile was stored. It was kept in the port for six years after a Moldovan-flagged cargo vessel carrying it docked off Beirut in 2013, but held before its crew abandoned the ship, as reported by CNN, The New York Times, and Reuters.

Aoun, a former Lebanese army general, had floated the possibility of “external interference by means of a missile or bomb” for the explosion and said he had “personally” asked France (and will ask other countries, if necessary) for aerial photos to determine if there were aircraft or missiles within their airspace at the time of the incident. He, however, dismissed calls for an international investigation, saying it was a “waste of time.”

The death toll for the explosion has reached over 170, including four Filipinos; injured more than 6,000; and left at least 300,000 people homeless. Initial estimates of losses due to the blast is over $15 billion, according to Aoun.

The aftermath also resulted in the resignation of Lebanon’s seven-month-old government led by Prime Minister Hassan Diab and his ministers. Diab’s government is serving in a caretaker capacity until a new cabinet is formed.

In the Philippines, at least 27 petitions have been filed before the Supreme Court against the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020, which Duterte signed into law on June 5. Petitioners, coming from various sectors, questioned the law’s supposed vague and unconstitutional provisions, such as authorizing an anti-terrorism council to declare a person as a terrorist without court order and prolonging detention without charges from three to as long as 24 days. (See VERA FILES FACT CHECK: Roque’s claim that Duterte ‘did not ask’ for anti-terror bill needs context; errs in saying Senate passed measure in previous Congress; VERA FILES FACT SHEET: What you need to know about the Senate’s anti-terrorism bill)


Editor’s note: VERA Files is one of the petitioners against the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020.



Lebanon Ministry of Information, The pattern, method, and approach of the investigation and the steps taken in the port explosion, Aug. 10, 2020

National Public Radio, A Massive Explosion Rocks Lebanon’s Capital, Beirut, Aug. 4, 2020

Robin Padilla official Instagram account, “Ito ang masasakit na ganap na dapat ay magsilbing babala at aral sa mga bansang…,” Aug. 5, 2020

Business Insider, Trump says Beirut explosion ‘looks like a terrible attack,’ contradicting Lebanese officials who implied it was likely an accident, Aug. 5, 2020

US Defense contradicted Trump

Ammonium nitrates

United States Geological Survey, M 3.3 Explosion – 1 km ENE of Beirut, Lebanon, Aug. 4, 2020

Lebanese President official website, Cabinet Statement: 5/8/2020 – Presidency of the Republic of Lebanon, Aug. 8, 2020

Lebanese officials arrested

Lebanese President official website, The President of the Republic, in an interview with BFMTV, Aug. 16, 2020

Lebanese president official website, President Aoun signed the decree referring the explosion crime to the Judicial Council., Aug. 11, 2020

Lebanese officials blame ammonium nitrates

Ship carrying the ammonium nitrates

Lebanese Presidency official website, President Aoun in a chat with reporters, Aug, 7, 2020

Calls for an international investigation on Beirut blast

Lebanese President Official website, Information Office in the Presidency of the Republic…, Aug. 9, 2020

Casualties in Beirut

Lebanon Ministry of Information, Diab announced the resignation of the government, Aug. 10, 2020

Lebanon Cabinet in caretaker stage

Official Gazette, Republic Act No. 11479, June 5, 2020


(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.)