Fact check: Enrile repeats unfounded claim that Ninoy Aquino organized CPP-NPA, MNLF

Xave Gregorio - Philstar.com
Fact check: Enrile repeats unfounded claim that Ninoy Aquino organized CPP-NPA, MNLF
Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Juan Ponce Enrile appears Wednesday, September 21, 2022, before a Senate panel conducting an inquiry on Charter change
Senate PRIB

MANILA, Philippines —  Chief Presidential Counsel Juan Ponce Enrile on Wednesday rehashed an unfounded claim that late Sen. Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr. organized the Communist Party of the Philippines, its armed wing the New People’s Army, and the Moro National Liberation Front.

This claim by Enrile, who was implementer and architect of Martial Law in the 70s and 80s, has been previously flagged by at least two independent fact-checkers to be false.

CLAIM: Aquino helped form the CPP-NPA with Jose Maria Sison and the MNLF with Nur Misuari.

RATING: This is false.

FACTS: There is no evidence showing that Aquino helped organize the CPP-NPA and the MNLF.

What Enrile said

Upon the prodding of Sen. Robinhood Padilla during a hearing on Charter change, Enrile told an account of the spread of communism across Asia and how the ideology came to the Philippines.

As he recounted how communism grew in the country, Enrile claimed Sison established Kabataang Makabayan (Patriotic Youth) — which would later be the youth arm of the CPP — with Misuari and Aquino.

He then claimed that in 1968, Sison, Misuari and Aquino formed two rebel groups — the CPP-NPA and the MNLF.

Enrile said Aquino wanted to cause havoc by using the CPP-NPA and the MNLF as a vehicle toward the presidency.

"Ang interes naman ni Ninoy ay guluhin ang gobyerno ni President [Ferdinand] Marcos [Sr.] dito sa Luzon through the CPP-NPA, later on NDF (National Democratic Front),” Enrile said. “Doon sa Mindanao, binuo niya iyong Moro National Liberation Front.”

(Ninoy’s interest is to create chaos in the government of President Ferdinand Marcos Sr. here in Luzon through the CPP-NPA, later on the NDF … In Mindanao, he established the Moro National Liberation Front.)

He added: “Nangyari iyon, kay Ninoy, ginawa niya iyon dahil mayroon siyang plano na maging presidente. Clear iyon eh.”

(Ninoy did that because he had a plan to become president. That’s clear.)

Enrile made this same claim on Facebook in 2021, which was flagged by Rappler and VERA Files. In response, Enrile said he “had access to classified sensitive ‘secret documents.’”

What he left out

While it is true that Sison founded the CPP-NPA, Misuari founded the MNLF and the two were key KM leaders, there is no proof that Aquino helped them build these organizations.

The CPP did not mention Aquino in its brief history it published on the occasion of its 20th anniversary in 1988, nor was he mentioned in Sison’s article on the 50th anniversary of the party recalling its beginnings and its “great achievements.”

Sison also said in a 2016 interview that “Ninoy Aquino could not have been a communist or a founder of the Communist Party of the Philippines.” 

“He was well-known as a CIA (Central Intelligence Agency) asset from the time he was a war correspondent in Korea. He was a representative of the comprador big bourgeoisie and the landlord class,” Sison said.

While Aquino denied in a TV interview ever being a CIA agent, he said that he sometimes exchanged information with the US agency as part of his duties as former Philippine government official and was once on a secret mission to Indonesia during the 1958 CIA-backed rebellion, according to the New York Times.

Also, a tracker on militant organizations kept by Stanford University’s Center for International Security and Cooperation only mentions Sison and Bernabe Buscayno as founders of the CPP-NPA. Similarly, the same tracker only mentions Misuari as the MNLF’s founder.

Essential context

Enrile made the claim during the Senate hearing on Charter change where he also called for the lifting of a safeguard in the Constitution to prevent a repeat of rights abuses during the martial law of Marcos Sr.

He heavily criticized the 1987 Constitution and said the phrase “imminent danger thereof” in the martial law provision of the Charter “weakened the powers of the Republic.”

Framers of the 1987 Constitution limited the grounds for the declaration of martial law to only include “invasion or rebellion, when the public safety requires it.”

The 1987 Constitution also imposed other safeguards against abuses, including limiting the time of the effectivity of a martial law declaration to just 60 days unless extended by Congress and allowing the legislature and the Supreme Court to review the declaration.

READ: Former Martial Law implementor Enrile suggests lifting constitutional safeguard on declaring it

Why does this matter?

There have been efforts to tarnish the legacy of Aquino and cast doubt on his status as one of the country’s national heroes, especially on social media.

Some local police units have used hashtags which suggested that Aquino was a member of the CPP-NPA a day before the nationwide holiday commemorating the senator’s assassination.

On the first Ninoy Aquino Day during the presidency of the son and namesake of his chief rival, Ferdinand Marcos Sr., most government agencies were mum about the commemoration.

Aquino, who was killed as he was getting off a China Airlines flight that brought him back from exile in the US, had been honored as a democracy icon by previous administrations.

But the election of the younger Marcos had raised concerns over whether events like the Aquino assasination or the 1986 People Power Revolution would still be celebrated. — reviewed by Kristine Joy Patag

This story is supported by the Philippine Fact-check Incubator, an Internews initiative to build the fact-checking capacity of news organizations in the Philippines and encourage participation in global fact-checking efforts.

Philstar.com is also a founding partner of Tsek.ph, a collaborative fact-checking project for the 2022 Philippines’ elections and an initiative of academe, civil society groups and media to counter disinformation and provide the public with verified information.

Want to know more about our fact-checking initiative? Check our FAQs here. Have a claim you want fact-checked? Reach out to us at [email protected].

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