Fake news and hoaxes

"They have been around long before the term “fake news” was coined."


With the United States presidential election almost over—I say almost because Donald Trump refuses to concede—Filipinos are now talking about the 2022 elections.

At this stage, my wild guess is that it will be a fight between two women—Vice President Leni Robredo and presidential daughter Sara Duterte. Bongbong Marcos, who lost to Robredo and insists he was cheated, may also run; his election protest is now with the Presidential Electoral Tribunal.

But would Sara Duterte give way to Marcos? Senator Panfilo Lacson may also try his hand at it. But under what party?

There is also speculation that Senator Manny Pacquiao would run, given his billions. How about Senator Bong Go?

Anything can happen.

* * *

I have seen many things in my seven decades as a journalist. I have covered 10 presidents. I have seen fake news even before there was a term for it.

An example of fake news is the hoax about the treasure of General Yamashita, the so-called “Tiger of Malaya” who was the Supreme Commander of the Japanese Imperial Forces in the Philippines during the four years of the occupation (1942-1945).

The tale which went around was that Yamashita raided all the temples of Malaysia, Burma (now Myanmar) and Laos and gathered all their treasures, one of them being a Golden Buddha. The story gained ground when it was said Ferdinand Marcos found the place where Yamashita buried the treasure. It fueled the belief that Marcos was indeed a very rich man.

The fabled treasure even became the subject of a Hollywood movie.

Of course, there was no Yamashita Treasure in the first place. I should know because when Marcos became president, he solicited the help of my eldest brother, Desi, and then-Brig. General Zosimo Paredes to look for the fabled treasure. The search was financed by one businessman who at that time had a contract with the armed forces to supply it with fire extinguishers with the brand “Carabao.”

After months of going around the Cordilleras and Region 2, Desi and the general found nothing. My gulay, did you know that some treasure hunters even dug at Fort Santiago?

That Yamashita treasure was one big piece of fake news.

* * *

Fake news is nothing new. I recall that during the Elpidio Quirino regime, Arsenio Lacson who was mayor of Manila made a big thing out of a “golden urinal.”

Another fake news was President Magsaysay slipping out Malacanang at four in the morning for extra-marital trysts. How could he do it when he was guarded 24 hours by the PSG?

And then there was that story about the wife of President Carlos Garcia, who was said to have golden rings of mosquito nets. But when you live in an air-conditioned palace, what use would you have for mosquito nets?

Even the poor boy from Lubao, Pampanga was not spared. The finance secretary, Fenny Hechanova and his wife Chit reportedly went to France on their way to Switzerland to deposit a suitcase full of US dollars rumored to be part of Macapagal’s ill-gotten wealth. When the couple stayed with a Frenchman friend of Fenny, the room was gassed. Fenny was killed but his wife survived. The suitcase of cash disappeared.

But how can you pass through Customs with that amount of cash without being detected?

Similarly, a Chinese Filipino banker, Vic Tan of the Continental Bank, reportedly carried a suitcase full of dollars at the airport on his way to Hong Kong. But how can anybody be so stupid as to carry a huge amount of money at the airport?

And then, we have People Power at EDSA. Half a million representatives of civil society gathered after the Americans took Marcos and his family out of Malacanang. But that was romanticized as the so-called revolution did not happen in the entire country. A revolution changes the system of government. That event only ushered in a regime change.

Yet another hoax was the Jabidah Massacre which Senator Benigno Aquino III exposed. His story was that some 400 Muslims were trained in Corregidor for the takeover of Sabah under one Col. Eddie Martelino. Ninoy said that all of the 400 were killed when the plot was exposed.

Topics: Emil Jurado , United States presidential election , fake news , hoaxes , General Yamashita treasure , Tiger of Malaya , Arsenio Lacson , President Magsaysay
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