THE Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism asked media outlets the other day to publish what it claimed was retired Police Officer 3 Arturo Lascañas’ “journal” exposing the “bloody exploits of the Davao Death Squad” and then Davao Mayor Rodrigo Duterte’s complicity in the group’s murders.
I find it so sad that the PCIJ—which I helped found in 1989, based on my research on such institutions in the United States during my fellowship at Harvard’s Nieman Foundation—has not only drastically deteriorated in terms of journalistic excellence. It’s become plain dumb or gullible, that it has become putty in the hands of the machiavellian Senator Antonio Trillanes III, who I think cooked up this rubbish black propaganda.
Trillanes cleverly managed to put the PCIJ brand on his “journal” hoax to give it credibility, and the PCIJ naively obliged. Yet it is neither an investigative piece that is the result of painstaking research, but merely the dissemination of a fake document from a single, biased source. Nor is it even journalism as we know it, as it didn’t even subject the “journal” to some textual analysis or even interview Lascañas to test him if he really wrote it, as journalists simply doing their job would.
For the sake of the country and our profession, the PCIJ should now stop degrading the term “investigative journalism”. It is so scandalous that a once prestigious institution that helped develop journalistic excellence in this country doesn’t seem to realize that because of its journalistic sloppiness, it has spread canards against the President of the Republic. Maybe Duterte indeed is a mass murderer. But unlike politicians like Trillanes who cavalierly spread lies to advance their agenda, journalists have to prove accusations with facts through real investigative journalism, not by disseminating a fake document from a very dubious source. What PCIJ has submitted for newspapers to publish is nothing but the worst kind of fake news.
The PCIJ says only three pages were shown to it out of 70 pages. Why would Lascañas do that? So that it won’t be just a one-day story. Because by releasing the fake document on an installment basis, Trillanes or De Lima hope that, in Hitlerian fashion, the repetition of the lie for many days would make it seem true.
Or perhaps the hoax’s brains is really Senator Leila de Lima, considering that one PCIJ board member is Jose Manuel Diokno—yes, one of her lawyers whose legal services for her aren’t certainly pro bono, although he and two colleagues have portrayed themselves as Free Legal Assistance Group attorneys helping a persecuted person, just like during the martial law days.
Of all people, it is journalists, especially veteran editors like PCIJ executive director Malou Mangahas, who could in just one swift reading conclude that Lascañas’ handwritten “journal” was fake, that it was as impossible for him to write it as it is miraculous for a newbie Filipino reporter on his first day of coverage to file a scoop, written in flawless prose that absolutely no editing is required.
Mangahas is not unfamiliar with textual analysis to determine the author of a written work. She and her colleagues at the PCIJ helped detonate in 1993 the bombshell that a Supreme Court justice wasn’t really the author of his decision defending the Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co. (PLDT) that was adopted by the entire tribunal, but the company’s lawyer. (The justice resigned in disgrace.)
Police Officer 3
Lascañas’ rank is Police Officer 3, or in the military, a master sergeant, a non-commissioned officer. His work experience other than being a policeman was almost entirely as a bodyguard, and by his admission a contract killer. In the Senate hearings last year (in which he backed President Duterte), the senators interrogated him not in English but in Filipino.
I bet a year’s salary that he got his degree from some very bad, diploma-mill school in Mindanao. I bet two-years’ salary he has not taken a course in European history, nor even that he has read a novel in the English language.
Then how the hell could he have authored not only in error-free English, but using terms (which I italicize below) which aren’t even in the regular, working vocabulary of most Ateneo, UP and La Salle college graduates as well as many journalists today:
“Mayor RRD’s entry into the Presidential derby 2016 could be a Divine Trap. It could lead him to his political Waterloo,” Lascañas supposedly wrote in this “journal”.
“Presidential derby” has been very rarely used in the Philippines, I have never used it even if I’ve written so many columns and articles in my career on presidential races. It was the past generation of editors— i.e., of the pre-martial law period—who were fond of mimicking the older American newspapers’ frequent use of it, because the US Kentucky Derby – the Formula One of horse races – was a vivid metaphor for presidential candidates racing to the finish line.
Tell me, dear reader, have you ever read an article or column in local newspapers using the term “Waterloo”? The term is a favorite in Europe because Napoleon’s defeat in the Battle of Waterloo was such a decisive event in European history. It’s seldom used in America and certainly not in Asia as we don’t really appreciate how towering a figure Napoleon was.
But Lascañas uses the term, as if he were very familiar with it.
The big giveaway in just that one sentence in that “journal” is the phrase “Divine Trap”, which I bet not one of my readers has ever heard of. It is from a not-too-successful novel titled Divina Insidia – The Divine Trap, published in 2014.
It generated some interest for a while in Europe as it was written by a Belgian banker Pascal Roussel at the European Investment Bank in Luxemburg. It expounds a conspiracy theory that 12 oligarchic families control all the banks, including central banks in the world, and readers expected an insiders’ view of how banks get to amass tons of money, especially at the time when the memory of how New York banks created the financial crisis in 2008 to 2009 was still fresh.
The “Divine Trap” was those oligarchs’ modus throughout modern history of ruining economies that countries begged them for loans, which trapped them into a debt quagmire. Whoever wrote Lascañas’ journal probably had just read the novel, and was enamored by the term “Divine Trap.”
There are several other words the fake journal uses that gives it away as being written by somebody else other than a sergeant-turned-contract-killer from the boondocks.
The “journal” reads (my itals):
“Mr. Moreno [of whom he was a bodyguard] was the owner of Liberty Telecommunications Co. he was the business partner of Gen. Fabian Ver, the Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines during the Marcos regime.”
Why would a sergeant prefer the harder-to-write-and-pronounce word “Telecommunications”, when Moreno’s company was really Liberty Communications? “Telecommunications” is a modern term usually used only by the intelligentsia – and lawyers.
Only two types of Filipinos ever use the term “Marcos regime”: academics and those who were in the anti-Marcos movement, especially communists. For the latter, “regime” has the connotation of being dictatorial, and indeed, the Communist Party had popularized the term “US-Marcos regime”, rather than ”US-Marcos Administration”, which doesn’t sound as nefarious.
Ordinary people like Lascañas instead would use the terms “government” (gubyerno) or administration (adminstrasyon). Why is “Marcos regime” used in that ‘journal’? I suspect it was written by one of the FLAG lawyers, who were all anti-Marcos activists.
The “journal” reads:
“Sooner or later, he would become the most hated political figure in Philippine history, based on his personality, character, and temper. He is a physically, mentally and spiritually disturbed person. He is for flesh, blood and power, no matter what… If ever he will win the Presidency and apply into the whole country the Davao formula of bloodletting on the promise of peace and order… he will lead the country into hell and deceptively perpetuate himself to lifetime in power. And the rest is lethal history… Only God has the sole dominion of human life.”
I’ve been an editor for two decades, and that is one flowing prose if ever there was one, the kind that normally requires much work by good editors before it emerges in that form, even if it sounds like Trillanes’ articulation of his wishful thinking.
Do you really think a police sergeant could ever write such soaring prose and according to Lascañas, in his mere “journal”? Could he have used the rather precise and vivid terms, hardly used even by columnists like “bloodletting,” “temper”, “disturbed person”, “dominion”?
Whoever wrote it obviously got carried away as a fiction writer would, forgetting that his knowledge of the English language—probably because he was a lawyer, and a reader—would be lightyears away from that of a police sergeant in Mindanao
They’re taking us for fools. As shown in the attached facsimile of the “journal,” it is even written totally impeccably, with not one word changed or crossed out, as any diary writer or even any writer of any kind of work would know is impossible to do. Only one word was misspelled, “brodcaster”.
Rather than written by Lascañas in 2015, it was obviously just recently written, copied by the perjurer from some work given him. What for?
Because everyone assumes that “sworn affidavits” are usually written and edited by a lawyer, who merely asks the affidavit-writer to sign. Because Lascañas gave an entirely different affidavit and testimony last year, nobody really believes his new affidavit.
On the other hand, handwritten papers give the impression that these were written with all honesty, as a diary would be – or a last will and testament would be.
If I were Lascañas, I would be very worried though. One of these days, in his usual arrogance, Trillanes would make a speech in the Senate, and claim that the “journal” was really Lascañas’ last testament, and therefore should be taken as gospel truth.
For all the trouble of writing such a fake journal, and making it extremely worthwhile for Lascañas to make a 180-degree turn in his testimony, I’m convinced that there is a well-financed plot to topple Duterte. And the plotters seem to be so desperate and so much in a rush to become so clumsy as in this fake “journal”.
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