Demi-gods and divine traps: Writing the mythologies of Ninoy and Arthur Lascañas

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ANTONIO P. CONTRERAS

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.

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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.

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22 Comments

  1. I wonder why he made a journal in 2015. From what I know journal writers like my sister and my best friend tend to write journals/diaries at an early age. It is a habit and one that I did not like to start LOL. Hence, it is truly suspicious why he doesn’t have any journal entries before 2015 and just focused on the DDS event….and for someone who can write that well that it is like reading fiction, I wonder why he did not even try contributing to a local newspaper. Whether the DDS is true or not and I suspect there must be some truth in it since even where I live, it is an open secret that our mayor and his politician relatives have private armies and mercenaries to do the dirty work of cleaning up or our city. And yet we still vote for this mayor whose family is a political dynasty just like all the families of our politicians including Duterte. Our system is still feudal with fiefdoms, serfs and knights. We just call them warlords and political dynasties today.

  2. Before, they were also saying that Matobato had a diary. It seems the people behind him decided to drop the idea of using the diary seeing how poor Matobato is in comprehension and memorization.

  3. If Matobato is cro-magnon, Lascanas is the Neandethal Man.

    Underdeveloped evolution of Man.

    And de Lima is the Peking Woman.

    Isn’t anthropology interesting ? What is Trillanes then ?

  4. Bonifacio Claudio on

    Would you believe this nonsense prediction that all roads will lead to the perdition of RRD insisting that it is a destiny laid out by God? I would be wont to believe Lascanas in his “poetry in motion” had he said his oponents would try to move heaven & earth to pin RRD down to prevent him from winning. Alas, as it is coming to pass, Destiny is leading the Yellows, Smartmatic, Drugs, Crime & Corruption to their Waterloo with the election of Pres Rodrigo Roa Duterte to the presidency — DU30, THE PATRIOT… Sumpa man, “potong-inang duling”, Mananaig ang pagka-Makabayan at Pagmamahal sa Inang Bayan ni Duterte. Lalaban ang Sambayanang Pilipino para sa Democrasya-ala-Duterte… DUTERTE DUTERTE DUTERTE !!!

  5. Naging “Divine Intervention” ang “Divine Trap”
    Ang journal ng retiradong pulis ang living testament ng kanyang mga “lies.”
    Dahil di kapani-paniwala ang laman at penmanship ay iyon ang magdidiin sa kanya na peke siya.
    Peki siyang testigo. Peke ang testimonya,
    Sino ngayon ang na-trap? He “trapped” himself, di po ba? Trillianes “trapped” ;himself, too.
    Sana nga po, sa Lunes, ingglesin siya ng Senado. Tingnan natin.
    Kung gumagapang ang Ingles ni Trillianes, magandang panoorain iyon, na sasagutin siya sa straight English ni Lascanas. It is also fun in the Senate!

  6. Melchor Vergara on

    the textbook the professor refers to is one of the first to be published under the K-12 curriculum of the noynoy administration… my grade 3 * 5 daughters’ AP/Civics textbooks also had similar articles, I even saw one post on social media where a textbooks puts leila delima in line with such greats as miriam santiago

    • And they accuse the Marcoses as revisionists. I was a martial law baby and was a leftist and an anti-Marcos in the past because that era brainwashed college students to believe in the communist ideology. Let us say Ninoy Aquino became the president of the Philippines at that time. He would have encountered the same problem with the communists despite this rumor that he did colluded with Joma Sison. The two just used each other anyway. All this pro-Aquino and anti-Marcos versions of the Marcos era are propaganda. How so? Because only one side is presented. There is a slant to depict the yellows as the heroes just like Marcos made the Bagong Lipunan vision slanted to favor his dictatorship and just like Joma Sison portrays communism as a pro-people which communist countries in this world, past and present, have shown to be false. At least with Bagong Lipunan, I remember being patriotic and proud of my nationality.

  7. Such a highly educated man from his profound writing style. And he chose to be a policeman?? W-T-F?

  8. Could it be that ninoy is a long lost relative of kim il sung? They have the same style of brainwashing the gullible pinoys.

  9. The PCIJ did not do any investigation at all. They just took something written by someone and presented it to the media. This is a failure of what PCIJ stands for. Even a quick review of the writing leads to many questions that should be investigated and answered.

  10. Re demi-god Noy, is this not the way of this Catholic nation? Brainwash the children at a young enough age and they will “believe” anything, regardless of historical fact or lack thereof. What could be more “holy” than the scriptures except perhaps a text book? Here be dragons!

  11. Melchor Vergara on

    whenever my daughters have homework regarding ninoy & the aquinos, I tell them ninoy is no hero despite what the book says, and I don’t give a damn if the teacher gives them an X mark for it… I am going to give them hell if my kids are given a failing mark for one entire school year just for it ?

  12. I saw a picture of one page of his so called journal and was amazed how good his penmanship is. Only a person with very good handwriting training writes longhand in that manner. I also noticed no error or erasure was made in any part.

    Never had I written by long hand on one page where I did not commit any error that needs correction. Has anyone written anything on one whole page without committing any error?

  13. The moro-moro of the senaTONGs and senengalings on Lascanas will star on Monday. It should be conducted in English only considering Lascanas’ “journalistic” ability.

    • Tinrap ni Duterte si Trillanes. Akala ng unggoy nakajackpot sya kay Lascanas. Set up lang lahat para mapahiya ng tuloy tuloy itong unggoy na senador.

  14. WTF….how can a dumb person be a linguistic poet all o a sudden? While Lascanas was under oath during the Senate inquiry, he cannot even speak English in a manner of speaking and after some months of hibernation…voila!!!! A “nakakakilabot na journal” pops out!

  15. Si Trillanes nga na panay ang speech sa Senate, hiindi siya maka speech ng hindi nabubulol sa english at hindi fluent mag english at nagnanga pa kung anong sasabihin sa english ang isang word at very boring ang mga sinasabi, si Lascanas pa kaya ang makagawa ng journal! Akala ni Trillanes maloloko niya ang mga tao. Tanga at bobo talaga ang sundalong kanin na Trillanes dapat ikulong din at i flush sa toilet ang abo niya!

  16. mikhail hieronymus on

    “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.” Fantastic journalism, Mr. Arthur Lascanas. You are an Accomplished Journalist.