Few news outlets in the Philippines have a science correspondent, none of those who do have one have given tasked their science correspondent to write about the claims. Hence most press references simply rehash Escosa’s press release. This includes opinion columnists, the result being little push-back on the fraud.
This desert of scientific illiteracy in print, broadcast, and online media does have a couple of oases of actual journalism. Filipino writer Alan C Robles debunked the scam in the South China Morning Post in an article called Science Fiction , while the Manila Times took apart an article in Business week in 2013 asking Did Businessweek fall for a 30-year-old hoax?
By 2017, however, Manila Times had forgotten that deuterium deposits are a fraud and published: “Scientists and experts believe the region is rich in gas and deuterium deposits”. No expert nor scientist believes in deuterium deposits.
By then the scammers had moved their fictional shiny object of desire from the bottom of the Philippine Trench to the far shallower waters of Benham Rise/Philippine Rise, well within the capacity of existing technology to exploit, so no more excuses.
The Businessweek article was derived from an article in the eminent business magazine, Bloomberg, written by the science-free Norman Pearlstine. An article by Shaun Tully, from another interview with Imelda in 2014 in the equally prestigious Fortune did express sceptism about deuterium deposits.
It is little wonder that the fabrication has taken such firm root, a situation worsened by social media like Facebook and Youtube, the scammer’s playgrounds for the gullible, the unwary, the science illiterate and the desperate seeking a miraculous escape from poverty, of which the Philippines has many.
Frauds that only target the poor rarely get prosecuted.
As this clipping shows, Escosa was at work by1989. Since then it has been adopted and promoted by the Alpha-Omega scammers posing as a religious group which is involved in land scams, the non-existent Tallano Gold, the convicted fraudster ‘King’ Tiburcio Villamor Tallano, and selling fake law-enforcement IDs and ranks.
These ‘beneficiary scams’ recruit people, often the poor, as registered beneficiaries. The victims buy a tee-shirt and join weekly religious cult meetings where more money is extracted, with the promise that they will become fabulously wealthy when the non-existent deuterium is extracted, which will always be sometime in the future, never now. The scam is boosted through press reports talking of non-existent extraction operations underway.
As with other scammers looking for a big windfall, the deuterium scammers first targetted the Philippine government immediately following the ousting of the notoriously corrupt and incompetent Ferdinand Marcos, then, having failed, targetted the Marcos family.
Here is that story.
The earliest public record we have found of the deuterium deposit claim comes from our swindler, Cesar Escosa, in a report issued by the Media Mindanao News Service on 15 August 1987 which describes Escosa as a scientist.
Escosa claims that a deuterium project was discussed during investment visits to the US by then-President Corazon Aquino. There no support for that claim.
A year later, the scam was debunked by Filipino scientists. and in 1988 Escosa was caught defrauding OFWs.
Escosa seems to have kept his head down until, as mentioned earlier, he filed as a candidate for election. When he appeared on the Randy David Public Life TV current affairs show viewers who has i vested their life savings in his scam and got nothing demanded to know what was going on.
Escosa sued television personality and senator-elect, Noli De Castro, for pointing out that Escosa had swindled people in 1989, and lost.
In the early 2000s, Imelda Marcos stepped into the breach and retconned the origins of the deuterium scam.
No references to deuterium deposits exist in known records contemporary with the Marcos regime, or prior to 1987.
Jarius Bondoc, ca olumnist of the Philippine Star and a believer in the deuterium deposits, quotes extensively from Escosa, directly or indirectly – possibly from a pamphlet distributed by Imelda Marcos (See Tully). In 2004 he claimed:
“a group of Filipino-Americans claims they can raise the sum from lenders and other prospecting overseas Filipinos. As far back as 1986, they had proposed to the Aquino government a scheme where they would build the pipes to pump up the deuterium using hi-tech adopted from aircraft.“
There is zero evidence that this was so, or that the ‘investors’ were anything other than those investors whom Randy David referred to in 1998.
The aim, of course, is to pretend the Aquino administration had ignored the wonderful opportunities presented by the deuterium deposits.
If they did, then science shows they were wise to do so.
We have reached out to Mr. Bondoc for comment.
Enter the flamboyant Imelda Marcos.
The deuterium scam was quiescent when I had a one-on-one lunch with Imelda at the Hollywood Steakhouse in the 1990s. She is a tall, very charming, charismatic lady who hides a sharp mind behind a facade of a slightly dotty old lady. We had a wide-ranging conversation which included mining manganese nodules and holes in the sky, but not deuterium deposits.
A visit to Royal Duty Free revealed she was still addicted to shoes.
By 2004, the deuterium scam was firmly affixed to the Marcoses and Imelda promoted it heavily through amenable media people.
When Benham Rise was recognised as Philippine territory in 2009, Imelda shifted from talking about the Philippine Trench to the newly acquired property.
It was Imelda who brought Edward Teller, an American scientist who was part of the team that developed the hydrogen bomb, into the mix. She claims:
“Edward Teller, the controversial physicist known as “the father of hydrogen bomb” persuaded her to develop her country’s deuterium when Teller visited in 1971 to the Malacañang Palace. She also added that Teller was her major supporter of her efforts until he died in 2003.“
It is unlikely that Teller said any such thing, since he knew how deuterium was made from seawater. There is no record of him suggesting mining deuterium anywhere, but by the time Imelda talked about Teller he was safely dead and out of the reach of fact-checkers.
Characteristically, Imelda always talks big (She claims to have 900bn USD in a Belgian bank). She has announced that the Philippines could earn 829bn a year from the imaginary deuterium deposits, to which she spends, she claims, millions of dollars a year maintaining exclusive rights to.
She would be better off hiring the equipment and manpower to actually go out and extract this unicorn from its dark and chilly depths, but spending other people’s money is something of a Marcos speciality.
The final kicker is that ‘mining’ Deuterium is utterly unnecessary. When fusion energy becomes a commercial proposition, probably with the next ten years, the fusion reactors will use Deuterium as a feedstock. As a 2012 paper, Fusion Power: A Ten-Year Plan for American Energy Security points out, Deuterium is actually in limitless supply, it can be extracted from seawater anywhere in the world. Many countries export it, here are the 2018 figures.
World trade in heavy water amounted to a mere $52.8m, and that is just a drop in the ocean, so not much in there for the Philippine economy, or those expecting to get rich from fictional Deuterium deposit anywhere in the Philippines.