Saturday, April 14, 2012

stories in my head, partly

Anecdotal evidence has it that there is one family in the media particularly in print and broadcast journalism that has made a career in shakedown journalism. The members of this tough guy family drive around in high-end vehicles and even publish (or announce) their property acquisitions (in their column of radio/TV programs) as if taunting the taxman herself.
Those who have dealt with them of were erstwhile prey attest that there appears to be a script followed to the letter by the siblings.

A telephone call triggers an attempt at connecting with a high government functionary usually a cabinet member or a head of an agency like the Philippine National Police for instance. The bigger the quarry the better. This translates into a multimillion-peso take. Contractors gravitate too close to this family with a promise of sizeable contracts from the agencies top honchos in exchange for what the congressmen receive from their pork. With their reputation preceding them, none of the bureaucrats would want to cross this sui generis family.
Friendship to this family has an economic value. Their telephone calls have to be returned pronto or their appointments with the civil servant a red letter day or they wield their pen that looks like a machete. They compete in upstaging political or other media personages. They see to it that their presence alone makes the public official shake in their boots.
There is an unofficial talk going around that one sibling was maintained in the plantilla of a law enforcement agency on a monthly basis booked as public relations expense. While on the payroll, the recipient’s column was in all praises to the predecessor of the chief. Weekly however, the column was critical of the region and provincial directors in command. When asked by the former chief why he was carping on the agency’s lower echelon officials when he was provided with a monthly pr fee, he snapped back that the payment is exclusive only for the chief and it did not include the region and provincial principals. “Let them fend for themselves,” retorted the columnist saying that they have monthly intelligencia anyway from the STL operators. “Huwag mo ng pasabitin sila sayo, Hepe.”
When the new appointee asked for a work out of the pr fee, woe unto him, he became the daily staple of the column.
These siblings have their own separate Foundations ostensibly to assist the less fortunate. These Foundations however were only made as fronts for personal fund raising activities where ordinarily no receipts were ever issued for “donations.”
The family wants to keep their name intact, at least for the record, that they are no extortionists outside of the league of an infamous news reader who at one time occupied a position a breath away from the presidency.
An anecdote almost became of scriptural proportion when one brother sought an appointment with a department secretary. The ruse was the younger brother wants a personal audience with the secretary to let the official know that there is a spate of rumors going around among the contractors that close relatives of the secretary were cornering huge contracts in the department known to have close to a hundred billion budget. All that the visitor wanted was to protect the good name of the secretary and at the same time warn him about the nefarious activities of the latter’s kin, in case he is clueless about their reprehensible actions.
The call was actually an initial connect with the high official for the next item in the agenda: the media man has some contractor-friends who are interested in the high ticket projects of the agency. Since the chief of the agency is steep in work, he might have forgotten the roundabout bid from the kid brother.
In situations like these which they have fully anticipated, the family has contingencies which the agency head may not savor at all. The family follows a script which has a coup de grace that literally shakes the official to his gut.
They designate the elder who is ostensibly out of the loop to deliver the denouement in his column. Once the column appears, another brother picks it up in his radio program and ingenuously makes reference to the rumor but never dwelling on it at length merely tying it up with the topic at hand.
Panic is now written all over the department. The secretary has to be informed or his image suffers especially with the appointing power whose pleasure appears short-fused. Another call is logged and happily picked up by its target, and a modus vivendi is hatched. The ensuing columns croon songs in high spirits sung by thedramatis personae of our fairy tale.
In a news item that appeared on the April 11, 2012 issue of the Philippine Daily Inquirer, it reported “the Roman Catholic bishop of Baguio City supported calls by various groups on Wednesday for a boycott of SM malls across the country in protest of its clearing of trees to make room from the expansion of its mall in the City of Pines.” This is big deal in Baguio. SM’s cavalier regard to the trees has earned the ire of the environmentalists of the Pine City. This news item should have merited front page given the uproar it created.
This news item appeared in the inner pages of PDI specifically on page 13. Not only that. The news piece was on the lower one eighth part of the page beside an advertisement.
In the same issue appeared an enticing picture of Anne Curtis on page 3 with her signature smile promoting a new condominium development project of SM’s affiliate, SM Development Corporation. How much does it cost to buy one whole page of PDI and at page 3 at that on a daily basis? What does this tell us?
If PDI has its way it could have killed that story. Instead PDI buried it in the inside pages appeasing SM, a blue chip ad placer in the broadsheet. Business as usual, not far from the business acumen of the family we told you about.

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