Briones: All for show

Publio J. Briones III

TWO steps forward. One step backward.

To Cebuanos, the combination is familiar. It’s the customary stepping of the Sinulog dance ritual in honor of the image of the Sto. Nino.

Some politicians have adopted the “concept” as part of their policy-making.

If you wonder why Cebu City’s clearing operation seems to be going nowhere, or, at the very least, is only inching forward, it’s because officials adhere to this time-honored tradition.

When the Department of the Interior and Local Government issued a memorandum, on President Rodrigo Duterte’s directive, to clear all public roads, including sidewalks, of obstructions, last year, the administration of Mayor Edgardo Labella did just that.

And so, almost overnight, many streets and sidewalks, especially in the downtown area, became pedestrian- and vehicle-friendly.

Illegal structures that blocked foot passage were taken down. Many vendors who had made the sidewalks their second home had to go. Begrudgingly, I might add, which doesn’t bode well for someone who will need their votes in the next election. Plus, the whole thing tarnished the mayor’s image of being a generous and kind-hearted individual.

So I imagine that it was with a heavy heart that Labella issued the orders to disrupt the lives of many who relied on the sidewalks and streets for their survival.

Therefore, I wasn’t surprised when, a few weeks later, a compromise was reached. Vendors were allowed to return to their old spots under certain conditions.

“The City has the responsibility under the Local Government Code to implement the general welfare for all but at the same time, we also need to consider that the vendors are also doing their livelihood. We have to balance all the interest,” Labella said back in November.

Indeed.

The national road clearing program also targets illegally parked vehicles. And so the Cebu City Transportation Office started clamping and towing violators.

But when the City received some flak for clamping the vehicles of Sto. Nino devotees attending the novena mass at the Basilica del Sto. Nino, Labella immediately made adjustments.

Illegally parked vehicles would not be clamped between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m. the next day. I initially thought the moratorium on clamping only applied during the Sinulog festivities but apparently, I was wrong. The temporary suspension of the clamping ordinance will also apply until after Sunday’s Sinulog Grand Parade.

From the looks of it, everything this administration has done is only for show, much like the Sinulog Grand Parade which a good friend and renowned anthropologist has described as a “spectacle for tourists.”