It's official and final: Faye told us a fairy tale
FAIRY TALE: I’m sorry, Faye, to bring this up on a blessed Sunday. But the earlier this is cleared up, the better for all of us, most especially for you.
To those who still do not know: It has been confirmed that the inspiring story of Faye Nicole B. San Juan, a sixth grader who claimed to have won several contests, including a so-called Intercontinental Science Quiz Net in Australia, is nothing but — as I have said –a fairy tale.
Those who called me names and ridiculed me in their email, text messages and in readers’ feedback need not be embarrassed. As a grizzled newsman, I take such irritations in stride.
As for Faye, the poor girl needs our understanding and assistance in picking herself up.
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CONCOCTION: In my first column on Faye dated Nov. 2, I noted that the Internet was burning with email demanding that the girl be given recognition and that many readers were set to start a scholarship fund “just as soon as Faye steps forward.”
“But I doubt if Faye would claim the honor and the assistance she richly deserves,” I wrote. “Pardon my skepticism, but my instincts as a grizzled newsman tell me that the story of Faye titled ‘Misplaced priorities can mislead a nation’ is a concoction.”
Despite followup reports on TV and some major newspapers affirming Faye’s story, I continued to quietly check the basic details and the clumsy “embroidery” all over the story.
(Those who want to review the story and my observations may still read my POSTSCRIPTs of Nov. 2, 4 and 7 in my website www.manilamail.com.)
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APOLOGY LETTER: Finally, yesterday, the High World Team of the Bread of Life Ministries, Faye’s handlers who were the first to retail the saga of Faye and her mother (Ma. Catherine San Juan), wrote me a letter of apology.
I quote below the letter in full — signed by Rev. Jesmael M. Montaña, associate pastor — so its essence is not lost in paraphrase:
“I am Rev. Jesmael M. Montaña, an associate pastor of Bread of Life Ministries. I’m part of the team in charge of the ‘Kingdom of a Higher World’ write-ups. In the light of your articles in connection with Faye Nicole B. San Juan, we were prompted to investigate the veracity of her story. It took sometime before we were able to gather data and conclude our inquiry regarding this matter.
“As a result, we were aghast to discover that Faye and her mother have never been issued passports according to the Consular Records Division of the Department of Foreign Affairs, thus invalidating their stories. Because of this oversight, I would like to apologize, on behalf of Team Higher World for the negligence on the part of Rev. Rito ‘Bong’ Saquing for not thoroughly clearing the facts. Faye and her mother are members of our branch church in Valenzuela, where Rev. Saquing is the head pastor.
“In line with this, we are coming out in the dailies with a public apology. Pastor Bong will also undergo ‘Censure Program and Spiritual Retraining.’ He has also been removed from his ministries during this period. We would also like to thank you for prompting us to conduct a deeper query.
“On the other hand, we would also like to clarify some matters raised. First, in regard to ‘using Faye to score political points against the government,’ you may not be aware that we vocally stood against religious leaders running for political office. We came out on TV and print media several times. In fact Michael Tan picked up our article. You may want to check our pre-election articles at crossroad77.com. More so, we have been involved in seminars on the Biblical principle of separation of church and state. We would like to make it clear that the information given by one of your readers, Bill Stone (energas77) about our church inviting then Vice President Gloria Arroyo is incorrect. We have never invited any political persona in our church-related activities. We firmly believe that our part is to keep focus on our mandate on helping people become better human beings for God, country and humanity.
“We take exception to the implication that we had some hidden agenda for the funds to be raised for Faye. We fully agree that any contribution should be directly given to Faye. Just for additional information, for years we have been supporting House of Refuge (an orphanage), Turning Point (a drug rehabilitation center), Lydia’s Helping Hand (ministry towards the indigent in Tondo), Support Your Police Program (ministry of values and help), Global Doors (reach out program towards our OFWs), ZKK (UN-awarded recycling and waste management program) and various others.
“Rev. Saquing’s oversight in not verifying the facts has caused a lot of pain to many people. We also agree that he should not have singled out Jasmine Trias. You were right in citing this uncouth liberty on his part.
“As I have mentioned earlier, we are coming out with a public apology from Team Higher World and a personal letter of apology from Rev. Saquing in the national news. Maybe Winston Churchill speaks to us that we should not sweep this under the rug when he said ‘Men occasionally stumble over the truth, but most pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing has happened.’ Hopefully our team hopes to learn from this and not hurry off as if nothing happened.
“Our Ministerial Board has decided to deal with this matter thoroughly. Faye and her mother have confessed to this fraudulent deed. We have come to realize the mother may have deep psychological problems needing professional attention. Our heart goes out to Faye and we will continue to help her in whatever way we can. As William Wordsworth said, ‘Wisdom is oftentimes nearer when we stoop than when we soar.’
“Obviously our editorial management needs re-evaluation. We deeply regret the trouble that was caused.
“We are sending a hard copy of this e-mail to your office at Philippine STAR.
“Thank you very much.”
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DOST FINDINGS: Before that, Ruby R. Cristobal of the media service of the Science Education Institute, Department of Science and Technology, told me in an email that they had checked and found that the Intercontinental Science Quiz Net where Faye supposedly bested students from 56 countries never took place in Australia last September, as claimed by Faye.
(The contest was called “INTERNATIONAL Science Quiz Net” in a front-page article in the Inquirer that gave credence and mileage to Faye’s incredible story.)
Cristobal attached a media advisory signed by SEI Director Ester B. Ogena saying among other things:
“Unfortunately, the information we have gathered from various sources, including our professional counterpart in Australia, does not support the claim of Faye and her mother. We have likewise invited the young girl and Ms. San Juan through the principal of St. James College, Mr. Arnel B. Salgado, to present valid proofs of the girl’s awards. However, Ms. San Juan declined the invitation.
“Although SEI-DOST would like to give Faye the recognition befitting an outstanding young achiever in science and mathematics, we are constrained by the fact that her story as presented in the media lacks merit in terms of valid proofs and the absence of any indication that the competitions cited truly exist.”
Director Ogena said that verifying the claims of Faye and her mother was in line with the SEI-DOST’s “mandate to support, nurture and recognize talents in science, mathematics and technology.”
She added that validation “is a process adopted to verify the awards received by individuals for competitions which are not coordinated by the Institute.”
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NO RECORD FOUND: Earlier, I also requested Immigration Commissioner Al Fernandez for his staff to check their computerized records of arrivals and departures.
He reported afterwards that immigration records do not show any Faye Nicole San Juan having left the country from August through October this year, or having arrived from abroad through the same time-window.
Before that, I asked the Australian embassy about the so-called Intercontinental Science Quiz Net. It turned out that the embassy had been checking even before I called.
Understandably, the diplomatic mission would not say categorically that the global competition never took place. The embassy put it in a runabout diplomatic way: Despite their checking, they could not get verification that such a contest had been held in Australia.