The Contratistas’ defender


Onion-skinned received quite a number of e-mails reacting to yesterday’s post.

Some provided Onion-skinned  names of Prima Contratista’s reliable media contacts and details of The Contratistas’ activities.  Not a few simply gave the e-mail equivalent of a hearty laugh.

Interestingly, of all the e-mails Onion-skinned received, only one wrote in defense of Prima Contratista.  On Onion-skinned’s claim that Prima Contratista left journalism, implying that her current gig is more lucrative, the sender wrote:  “No, no, no.  She was fired!”

So we stand corrected.

Wait.  That’s not a defense?

We stand corrected.


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The Contratistas

Which means, of course, “The Contractors”.

And true to their name, this recently formed cabal of young, relatively young and reluctantly old journalists and media persons are contracted by their leader, Prima Contratista, to sneak press releases into newsrooms and push slants into news stories coming out of them.

The group used to hang out at the office of a government official, where Prima Contratista used to work (unofficially), and on particularly good “paydays”, in videoke bars as well. In videoke bars, they rehearse not only the lines to their favorite songs, but more importantly, the lines they have been contracted to write into their stories,

With that government official gone, Prima Contratista was picked up recently by an old discredited politico who is not only aging, but is dying to make a comeback.

Prima Contratista used to be a reporter, though not a very successful one. She wrote bad stories, and embarrassed other reporters in press conferences by asking bad questons and her bad habit of bringing her noisy kid along. And for scooping up the free snacks before everyone else, and even before the host could offer them.

But hey, who knows? She already has under contract reporters from all major dailies — Cebu Daily News, The Freeman and even SunStar — as well as radio and TV stations. Maybe, by being a “contratista” — that is, contracting out p.r. work to jourmalists and media persons — she has found her true calling.

Maybe even, I’m told, being true to her name.

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Cheking’s Liberal Party drinking buddies

kinsay kurap reminded onion-skinned, which has been slacking lately, about updating this blog, especially since September and Press Freedom Week are fast approaching.

He/she further volunteers the information that The Freeman has made good its threat not to host this year’s Press Freedom Week, supposedly to show its disapproval of the way Cheking Seares and his cronies (mis)handled last year’s celebrations. (Please refer to previous posts.)

onion-skinned apologizes for taking an extended leave.  We were too busy writing boring stuff.

Which doesn’t mean, however, that our ears (and those of our informants) have not been busy.  So, to make up for our absence, here’s a juicy bit of information:

A waiter at a bar in a hotel near Fuente Osmena informs onion-skinned that Cheking Seares, the Grand Old Man of Cebu’s media, is now a frequent drinking companion of Liberal Party leaders, particularly Bogo City Mayor Celestino “Junie” Martinez Jr. and defeated 2nd congressional district candidate for congressman and former Provincial Board Member Cary Kintanar.  Once, radio broadcaster and columnist (who identifies himself as “author” in his Facebook Page), SuperBobby Nalzaro was even present.

The head of security of that hotel, who is a friend of onion-skinned, says he can get me video footage from their security cameras if these gentlemen should deny this.  (So onion-skinned is waiting for Cheking to deny this.)

So people shouldn’t wonder anymore why these people have fully embraced the Liberal Party’s tactic of attacking their political opponents this early in the political cycle.

One more thing:  The waiter is wondering why the Liberal Party leaders aren’t living up to their party’s name and instead it’s Cheking and his media cronies who are quite Liberal with their drinks, and who seem to know how to Party.

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CCPC gives its own video two thumbs up

As expected, the Cebu Citizens Press Council (CCPC) issued a resolution defending the video “Corruption of Media:  The Cebu Setting” after a “closed-door” meeting on November 16.

We already expressed our misgivings about the so-called “closed-door” meeting in a previous post (“How to Stonewall:  Lessons from CCPC”), and narrated our futile attempt to get ourselves invited.

The curious thing is that Cheking Seares apparently made it appear to CCPC that we were invited.  (We just got off the phone with his friend, SuperBobby Nalzaro, who had that impression during the meeting.)

And there was this bit of sleight-of-hand regarding the actual date of the meeting.  After Cheking Seares refused our request to be invited, we asked that we at least be informed of the date of the meeting, so we could prepare the list of complaints that he asked us to prepare.  This was Cheking Seares’ reply:

Cherry has been making the arrangements.  She’ll text you.

But we never got the text.  She emailed us a copy of the agenda, though.  Two days after the meeting.

Hardly had the ink dried on the CCPC resolution, however, when we’re getting a barrage of complaints regarding CCPC’s handling of the matter.  Reporters are saying that the whole matter is like wine.  Wine in Hanoi, which presidential speechwriter Mai Mislang says “sucks”.

As to the politics that went into the resolution, that will have to await another post.  But we’ll leave you with these insider’s insights, from our reader, Reporter:

My initial thoughts on this development:

* The non-journalists were apparently clueless on what is right or wrong. They took their cue from the journalists who participated in crafting the CCPC response.

* Like Cheking, two of the journalists present, Mr. Leo Lastimosa and Ms. Eileen Mangubat, are known to give more weight to the adversarial role of journalism when it comes to the present occupants of Capitol but development oriented when the stories involve Cebu City Hall.

* Yet they are also known to have been at the receiving end of Cheking’s tactics sometime in the past. It would be to their interest to keep the media corruption issue alive because it dragged Cheking’s skeletons into the open. I bet they would not mind the use of onion-skinned in the discussions that the controversial video seeks to provoke.

* Because of these two reasons, Leo and Eileen supported the resolution.

* Cherry Ann Lim and Michelle So, on the other hand, reached their present status because of Cheking. They are expected to defend him. They are simply unmindful of Cheking’s agenda. Yet while they could not go against the sentiment of transparency in CCPC affairs, they are very uncomfortable with the current use of onion-skinned in current discussions (even in classrooms) in relation to their video. The two, like many in Sunstar, equate Cheking with Sunstar. They could not believe that Sunstar is better off without Cheking.

* The CCPC resolution defends a video that blamed only reporters of corruption and singled out Capitol as an example of corruption because of the packed lunches during daily press conferences.

* It would have been best had CCPC invited onion-skinned to the discussions prior to their resolution. After all, this is already happening outside. Their closed-door meeting violates the journalist principle of fairness and balance.

Yes, it’s like the CCPC telling the Cebu Federation of Beat Journalists (CFBJ) and Onion-skinned to take their complaints and introduce them into their rectal regions.

Is it really a “citizens” press council?  Or is it a conspiracy of editors with a few citizens thrown in to deodorize their crap?


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New “Poll” section on FB page

The Onion-skinned Facebook page has a new “Poll” section, where we conduct new polls every week.

You can visit that page by clicking this link.

And by the way, we’ve reached 20,700 fans in less than two months.  Not bad at all.


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How to stonewall: Lessons from CCPC

Like Cheking Seares usually starts his columns and his editorials, let’s start with a definition.

“Stonewalling” is “stalling or delaying especially by refusing to answer questions or cooperate”.

And that is just what Cheking Seares, speaking on behalf of CCPC, did in “response” to our challenge to address a forum on the video documentary “Corruption of Media:  The Cebu Setting”.

Not a word about any forum, or any response to the challenge.

Instead, Seares offers a “closed door meeting” of the CCPC to discuss the video.

Puzzled by the “closed door” statement, Onion-skinned asked Cheking Seares about it.  After all, since when have CCPC meetings been “closed door”?

Thru SMS, Onion-skinned asked if we could be invited to that “closed door” meeting, to give our side to the controversy.  This is Cheking Seares’ response:

“It’s an internal meeting to consider, among others, your proposal for a forum.”

Not satisfied, Onion-skinned replied that we understood it was an internal meeting, but asked if we could be invited “as guest, to present in detail our complaints re the video”.  Onion-skinned said we were sure “other members of the board would not object to hearing both sides”.

Onion-skinned pointed out that it would not be unprecedented, because the CCPC usually had guests during their meetings.  Records show, for instance, that in the September 2006 meeting, there were 43 guests; March 2007, 27 guests; June 2007, 24 guests; September 2007, 23 guests; December 2007, 14 guests; and March 2008, 12 guests.

Cheking Seares replied:

There will be a few guests but they are all from media who will help CCPC look at the issue.”

Meaning, that Onion-skinned would not be invited.  So much for it being a “citizens'” press council.

More puzzling:  It was inconsistent with Cheking Seares’ earlier statement that it was a “closed door” meeting and an “internal” affair.  How would it be “closed door” or “internal” if you had guests?

So it becomes clear that it is “closed door” only to Onion-skinned, and to all those who complain about the video.  It is “internal” only to Cheking Seares’ cronies, apologists and avid defenders.

It is ironic that Cheking Seares and the CCPC, who would be the first to complain about stonewalling public officials (they even have a video documentary about media access), are now taking out the brick and the mortar, and building a high wall they hope the public could not climb.

“Being accountable comes with being free,” the CCPC says.

The other members of CCPC should be reminded that this wall that Cheking Seares is building, to protect himself from accountability for his actions and ambitions, will also — if they allow it — wall them in.


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Forum on video? Let’s wait for CCPC’s response

With this press release, I guess the ball is in CCPC’s and Seares’ hands.



Was the video documentary “Corruption of Media:  The Cebu Setting”, produced by the Cebu Citizens Press Council (CCPC), fair?

Rep. Pablo John Garcia yesterday challenged lawyer Pachico Seares, executive director of CCPC and author of the video, to agree to address a forum with him on the issue.

“Let’s not call it a debate,” Garcia said.  “Let’s just call it a forum.”

In an email message to Seares, Garcia said he counted “at least 16 instances” where the 25-minute video was unfair to Governor Gwen Garcia, the Capitol and “by necessary implication, the Capitol beat reporters.”

Garcia argued that since the video was shown to an audience during Press Freedom Week, “without opportunity on the part of the people therein implicated to respond”, it was only fair that both he and Seares address a forum on “why the video is, or isn’t, unfair.”

In challenging Seares to said forum, Garcia invoked “fair play” and “(Seares’) oft-repeated principle of voluntarily granting the opportunity to reply”.  He also echoed CCPC’s motto, “being accountable comes with being free”.

Garcia said he was open to any venue, and any audience, but believed “it only fair that the original audience during Press Freedom Week be invited.”

Garcia asked that the forum be held before November 8 (the day Congress resumes session), or, thereafter, on any Thursday, Friday, Saturday or Sunday “whether morning, afternoon or evening.”

In his popular blog,, Garcia had claimed that Seares and the CCPC attempted to “pass off” an edited version of the video as the original.  He was subsequently provided a second and different copy, which the CCPC claimed was the original.


Full text of the email to Seares here.


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Laziness Dep’t.: SunStar’s editorial of Oct. 28



SunStar’s editorial of October 28 makes the following bold claim:

Recently, the Philippines ranked 134th of 178 countries on the matter of corruption.

It represented a slight improvement in its 139th status last year, meaning the country already achieved a measure of success in the first few months of the P-Noy administration.

Of course, the SunStar editorial offices are a bastion of P-Noy apologists, but that doesn’t excuse laziness in research and fuzzy analysis.

Simply visiting the website of Transparency International (the source of the ratings) gives us the following info:

The 2010 results are drawn from 13 surveys and assessments published between January 2009 and September 2010.

So if the results were based on surveys beginning January 2009, how can one attribute the slight improvement to “the first few months of the P-Noy administration”?

I think the SunStar editorial offices should snap out of this extended honeymoon soon.  It’s sapping the intellectual energy of the paper.



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Blind items are cockeyed journalism


Deep down Onion-skinned’s archives, we found this old post about blind items from January 20, 2007 (“Blind items are not journalism”).

Given the reactions generated by our previous post (“SunStar’s Bzzzzz:  Gawad Junquera“), we thought we should re-post this:

One of the more cowardly aspects of newspapering is the “blind item”. Every day, Cebu dailies dish out rumors involving unnamed personalities allegedly caught in some unverifiable fiasco, written almost always with an unmistakable smirk.

The trouble is, in doing so, they’re smirking at the very core of their professional ethics.

After all, what purpose does the “blind item” serve? If the item true, it is media’s responsibility to report it, without equivocation, without resort to innuendo.

If the item is true but cannot find print in the news pages because it involves the private lives of public figures, or because no public interest is served by publishing it, then printing it — whether in the form of news or a blind item — breaches the ethics of journalism.

If it is written as a blind item because its truth cannot as yet be verified, then it is pure laziness to print the rumor and pass it off as a newspaper item, instead of getting one’s hands dirty trying to get confirmation.

Newspapers demand the guarantees of press freedom. But every day, they are proving that they do not need those guarantees, because they skirt responsibility for their statements simply by resorting to the blind item, for which there is no need to discover the truth, to strive for accuracy, or to bear the responsibility for, and the consequences of their actions.

That, you must admit, is cowardice. No wonder no one has ever won the Pulitzer Prize for writing blind items.


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SunStar’s Bzzzz: Gawad Junquera


Reporter, reacting to our previous post about SunStar’s Bzzz section (Tips & Tricks Dep’t.:  SunStar’s Bzzzzz), brings out an intriguing point:

The Buzzz is an indicator of the kind of standard Cheking has for himself. During the past election campaign, Buzzz was in an adversarial mode when it talks about Capitol issues but an advocate when it mentions City Hall or a daughter of a former congressman.

Valid point.  You’re already editor-in-chief, after all, with absolute control over what comes out in tomorrow’s paper.  You write a twice-weekly column, where you can write about anything under the sun.  You also run a daily tabloid in Cebuano by remote control.  You control what comes out on your online network.

What is the overpowering urge to write a gossip column fit only for trashy showbiz tabloids?  To scratch an itch of some baser instinct?  Is that why he uses Bzzzz to obsess about a certain Fiscal Gwapa and her alleged sexual exploits involving men in power?  Is that why he giggles like a teenage virgin about gossip romantically linking public personalities to each other?

It must be some Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde thing going on in some dark corner of the SunStar editorial offices.

Reporters, in fact, have stopped submitting tips for the Bzzzzz section (they used to get token prizes of a few pesos for tips) because Cheking — transmogrifying into Mr. Hyde — twists and mangles the stories such that they don’t come out the same.  And they run into trouble with their sources.

Why? Because Cheking Seares, Gawad Plaridel awardee for his contributions to journalism, doesn’t want to lend his name (and hence uses blind items, and doesn’t put his byline) to the trash that he spews out in this gossip column.  God forbid the Gawad Plaridel awardee soil his hands with his own sh**.

With the Bzzzzz section, the Gawad Plaridel forgets Plaridel and meanders down a nearby back alley.  He should get the Gawad Junquera.

Except that our friendly neighborhood ladies of the night — who at least do not have pretensions to uprightness and moral rectitude — might object.


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