Screenshot of an August 19 Facebook post claiming Benigno Simeon "Ninoy" Aquino Jr. 'died a natural citizen.'
Claim: Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr died a Malaysian citizen on August 21, 1983. He was carrying a Filipino and Malaysian passport on that day.
Facebook user Maureen Rose Meija-Villar posted on August 19 that Aquino died a “naturalized Malaysian citizen,” and his second passport under the name “Marcial Bonifacio” was a legitimate Malaysian passport.
She ended her post with, “For me, the 'hero' is NOT the face of the man I see every single time I get hold of a 500 peso bill! It's the WRONG face of a hero!”
As of August 21, a regular holiday in commemoration of Aquino’s assassination, the post garnered at least 4,200 reactions, 168 comments, and 4,100 shares.
The facts: Aquino was a Filipino citizen. In addition, based on several accounts of his final days, there was no mention of a Malaysian passport.
In an article by the Philippine Daily Inquirer in August 2014, Jose Ampeso detailed how Aquino asked for his help to obtain two passports – with one bearing the name "Marcial Bonifacio” – in 1983 while they were both in the United States. Ampeso was the Vice Consul at the Philippine Consulate in New Orleans, while Aquino was in exile.
Ampeso also said in another interview with GMA News in August 2014 that the procurement of the passports were “cleared” by the administration of then-President Ferdinand Marcos.
Meanwhile, journalist Ken Kashiwahara who was with Aquino in his last flight to the Philippines, wrote in the New York Times that Aquino traveled with his "Marcial Bonifacio" passport, reportedly bought in the Middle East, and a blank passport provided by an old government acquaintance.
Then, in a website dedicated to Aquino, it said it was former congressman Rashid Lucman who provided Aquino the passport using the "Marcial Bonifacio" alias.
In former president Corazon “Cory” Aquino’s memoir of her late husband published by the Inquirer in 2003, she said that the "Marcial Bonifacio" passport was provided by Lucman, and the second passport which carried Ninoy's real name was supplied by one of his friends in the United States.
In fact, in a 2010 History Channel documentary on Aquino, it can be seen he was holding a Philippine passport under his alias during his last flight home. The voice-over described it as a fake passport.
In an ambush interview on August 21, former president Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III said the claim is “fake news” after reading about it in a newspaper. He also emphasized that his father was born in 1932. Malaysia was officially recognized as a sovereign country only in 1957.
The contemporary naturalization law of Malaysia also requires an individual born outside Malaysia to have resided in the country for at least 10 years to acquire citizenship.
The claim of Aquino having a Malaysian passport and being a Malaysian citizen surfaced as early as 2016 in a blog with the domain falconbase2008.wordpress.com. The post said that Aquino entered the Philippines on August 21, 1983 with a genuine Malaysian passport, and not a counterfeit Philippine passport.
Similar posts were published by philnews.ph and thedailysentry.net in 2018. — Miguel Imperial and Michael Bueza/Rappler.com
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