I HAVE written several scholarly books but have co-authored only one textbook. Between an academic, scholarly book comparing Thailand and the Philippines, and a senior high school textbook on society, culture and politics, I found the latter as more challenging. I say this for the simple reason that the readers in the latter are more impressionable and less discerning, and without proper guidance from teachers, could easily be swayed by alternative facts or by misinformation.
This is the context to why I recoiled in horror when I saw written in a textbook for Araling Lipunan for Grade 2 the following:
“Si Ninoy, Kilala mo ba? / Kilala mo ba si Ninoy?/ Ama siya ni Pangulong Noynoy./ Buhay niya ay inialay para sa bansang minamahal./ Nagtrabaho, nagsakripisyo, kahit siya ay mabilanggo./ Pagbabago ay ipinaglaban kahit pa siya ay mamatay./ Nagluksa ang langit nang siya ay inilibing./ Kumulog nang ubod lakas./ Kumidlat nang ubod talim!”
["Ninoy, do you know him? / Do you know Ninoy? / He is the father of President Noynoy./ He offered his life to his beloved country./ He worked hard and sacrificed, and he was imprisoned./ He fought for change even if it meant his death./ The heavens mourned during his burial./ On that day thunder so loud was heard./ And lightning so fierce was seen!”]
On its face, these words amount to pure, unadulterated idolatry.
There is no question about the factual claims about who Ninoy Aquino was, and his relation to the former President. One can even grant factual status to the claim that he sacrificed for the country, and that his fight for change cost him his life.
But it is a blatant attempt to elevate Ninoy into a demi-god to claim that the heavens wept for him, matched with a scene very much like when Jesus Christ died on the cross, with thunder roaring in the heavens, sending fierce bolts of lightning. It would have been acceptable had this been a textbook for creative writing, or literature. But this is a textbook for Araling Panlipunan which children enrolled in Grade 2 will read, and will consider as truth.
But mythmaking is not confined to textbooks for children. Even investigative journalists can fall into the trap of weaving fantastic stories, without even any attempt to probe for logic.
This is what may have happened to PCIJ journalists Nancy Carvajal and Davinci Maru, when they wrote what would have been an explosive expose, where Arthur Lascañas reportedly crafted a handwritten, 70-page journal whose contents contradicted his earlier testimony at the Senate. Then, he denied the existence of the Davao Death Squad. But in his journal, which he supposedly started writing in 2015, he admitted to being a part of it, under the direction of President Duterte himself, who was then the mayor of Davao City.
When one is confronted with an incredible tale such as this, considering that it indicts not just an ordinary person but the President of the Republic, more so if you claim that you are an investigative journalist, you automatically look for inconsistencies and dubious claims.
It behooves one to ask how Carvajal and Maru, and their bosses at PCIJ, could not have found traces of suspicious prose on the following statement of Lascañas:
“Mayor RRD’s entry into the Presidential Derby 2016 could be a Divine Trap. It would lead him to his political Waterloo. Win or lose, sooner or later, he would become the most hated political figure in Philippine history.”
The phrase “divine trap” is very uncommon, and one must be curious as to how an SPO3 can have access to such a metaphor. A quick google search reveals that the term could be found in three instances. It is a term in the online game RunEscape that refers to an item that acts as a portable box trapping location. It also appeared twice as titles of books. The first is by Pascal Rousell in his book “Divina Insidia: The Divine Trap,” which is about the inner workings of the financial world. The second was written by Carl Hoefler entitled “The Divine Trap: Background on the Parables,” which, as the title implies, is a kind of biblical analysis.
While it is indeed possible for Lascañas to have access to online gaming terminology despite his age, or would have been a fan of Rousell or Hoefler, in that a policeman is not barred from appreciating financial fiction or biblical literature, it was incumbent upon Carvajal and Maru to have been prudent enough to probe if he was indeed any of these. After all, this is the President whom their source would like to take down.
But like the one who wrote the textbook that turned Ninoy into a demi-god, who was not interested in truth but in mythmaking, Carvajal and Maru appear to be investigating not for the whole truth, but only for the kind that will weave a myth that will demonize the President.