Fact check: Ninoy Aquino died a Malaysian citizen?

August 22, 2022 - 5:23 PM
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Ninoy Aquino on a podium
Former senator Benigno "Ninoy" Aquino, Jr. speaks to the public. (Photo from Official Gazette)

CLAIM: Late opposition senator Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr. died a Malaysian citizen and was “many times a traitor.”

Such claims are part of social media posts bearing the hashtag “#NinoyIsNotAHero” which resurfaced on August 21 or the Ninoy Aquino Day, an official holiday commemorating the late senator’s assassination 39 years ago.

This year, most official social media accounts of government agencies were silent while at least two police stations red-tagged Aquino, accusing him of being a New People’s Army member.

Ninoy_Malaysia citizen claim
(Screengrab by Interaksyon from Facebook)

A 2016 blog post also had the following claims, mentioning that Aquino was a “Malaysian citizen” when he died. It reads:

“The passport he used to enter PH under the name Marcial Bonifacio was not the counterfet PH Passport (the one fabricated by someone with a Muslim-sounding name I forgot the name), but a genuine Malaysian Passport. From US, he smoothly entered Japan, Hongkong, Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia, of course with a genuine Malaysian Passport, not with a counterfeit PH Passport (it would have been repeatedly risky for a counterfeit PH passport to be used in entering these several nations). The story about Ninoy’s counterfeit PH Passport was highlighted to cover-up the existence of his Malaysian Passport.” 

“Noong araw, wala pang Dual Citizen sa Pilipinas. 2003 lang nagsimula ang Dual Citizenship Act of the PH. In the practice of due-diligence, Passport is the standard universal documentary proof of citizenship.” 

“Ninoy Aquino was not a Filipino citizen when he died; he was a Malaysian citizen. His passport and other personal belongings disappeared when he died (personal items of the deceased are usually in the hands of the family).” 

RATING: Claims of Aquino being a Malaysian citizen are false.

Facts 

Jose Ampeso, a vice consul at the Philippine Consulate in New Orleans who was Aquino’s fraternity brother in Upsilon Sigma Phi, recounted how the late senator sought his help in seeking a passport.

At that time, the opposition figure wanted to return to the Philippines after a self-imposed exile in the United States in an attempt to convince late dictator Ferdinand Marcos Sr. to restore democracy by peaceful means.

In a 2018 interview, Ampeso said that Aquino wanted to secure two passports—one with his real name and the other, under the assumed name “Marcial Bonifacio.”

Late journalist Teddy Benigno Jr. said Aquino was denied a passport by then-first lady Imelda Marcos, hence the latter’s reason to acquire two.

Ampeso in the interview said that he worked on the passports in secrecy, adding that he made sure there was no evidence it would be linked to him.

A New York Times journalist who was with Aquino on the latter’s flight to the Philippines said that the former senator carried two passports.

“One had been bought in the Middle East and carried his nom de guerre, Marcial Bonifacio” while the other was a “was a blank passport which an old Government acquaintance had procured for him and in which he had written his real name,” Ken Kashiwahara wrote in a 1983 report.

Footage of a History Channel documentary uploaded in 2010 showed Aquino holding a “fake passport” bearing the cover “PASAPORTE” and “REPUBLIKA NG PILIPINAS” with the name “Marcial Bonifacio.”

(Screengrab from YouTube/BenignoAquinoJr on this video posted on May 6, 2010)
(Screengrab from YouTube/BenignoAquinoJr on this video posted on May 6, 2010)

Aquino was also born in 1932 before Malaysia was recognized as an independent country in 1957.

Why it matters 

Claims about the democratic icon’s supposed Malaysian citizenship have been continuously circulating online, with the latest one spreading online on the commemoration of Aquino’s death anniversary.

Some of these claims caught former senator Bam Aquino‘s attention. He is a nephew of the late statesman.

“FAKE NEWS ALERT! Walang basehan ang mga pekeng impormasyon na ito tungkol kay Ninoy Aquino. Ninoy Aquino died a Filipino. Ninoy lived and died a hero. #SalamatNinoy #RememberingNinoy #FaithMakesHeroes,” he tweeted.

This story is part of 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.

Interaksyon is part of #FactsFirstPH, a multi-sectoral initiative promoting truth in public space and demanding accountability for falsehoods. For those interested to join the initiative, email [email protected]

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