Bzzzzz: Rama's Covid protocol enforcers (PEMs) and Labella's MILOs. BOPK's Archival laments 'inaction' on City Council initiatives.

·4 min read

Covid in the city

HOW safe is Cebu City as regards Covid-19 transmission? Councilor Joel Garganera, who also sits at the city's Emergency Operations Center as deputy implementer of the national task force IATF, told his colleagues last November 4:

[1] We are "safer than we were" in August, September and October. Daily positivity rate or the "percent positive rate" (positive tests over total tests times 100) has gone down to 1.3% as compared to 1.36%, 2.8% and 1.7%, in descending order, in the last three successive months. The rate of 1.3% is much lower, Garganera said, than the 5% threshold set by the World Health Organization. (WHO recommended in May that the percent positive remain below 5% for at least two weeks before governments consider reopening.)

[2] But, Garganera said, Covid-19 is "still around" and "can spike anytime," as it has done in the US and some parts of Europe.

[3] They (presumably at IATF) has no "exit plan" because they don't know when Covid will end. "We have to learn to live with it," Garganera said. Which must include continuous spending of spending funds, not knowing when it can stop.

Rama's C-PEMs

Cebu City Vice Mayor Mike Rama has completed the organization of C-PEM or Covid Protocol Enforcement Movement, capped by the swearing in as members the councilors who attended the November 4 regular session of the City Council.

The councilors' participation, more symbolic than anything else, was not the interesting part. What was: Mike Rama having visited 80 barangays in four days -- from October 17 to 20 -- stopping and pep-talking at 134 sites with the enforcers or "marshals."

VM Mike, after a privilege speech, made the claim to the councilors, including a reply to a purported comment of Councilor Dondon Hontiveros that Mike was talkative ("tabi-an"), so how could he cover all those places in short period of time. Mike boasted that he talked only for five minutes at each stopover. Which must have been torture for Mike, a City Hall watcher quipped.

MILO COUNTERPART? Mike Rama made it clear his organization aims to protect the gains in the fight against Covid-19 by having leaders and concerned residents in each barangay help enforce the health protocols. The "success" in Cebu City, he said, is being relayed by IATF's implementers all the way to President Duterte.

With each group of C-PEMs involved in the discipline needed to continue the observance of anti-Covid standards, "we would enjoy our Christmas, our Fiesta Senyor and Sinulog, and the 500th anniversary celebration of Christianity in the country."

Some City Hall observers though may see Rama's C-PEMs as counterpart to Mayor Edgar Labella's MILOs, the "information and liaison office" the mayor has put up in each barangay in the city.

A MILO office aims primarily to speed up action on problems and needs of the barangay but it is effectively also a propaganda unit and listening post and a counterfoil to barangay captains who support the opposition BOPK of former mayor Tomas Osmeña. Intended or not, MILO is Labella's network on the barangay level, each office being led by a Labella loyalist.

Compared to Milo, C-PEM does not have City Hall funding and access to power, except VM Mike and the City Council. Councilors who are Labella loyalists are expected to balk at any indication that it might be used as a political arm.

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Council ignored, or what

Among the reactions to VM Rama's anti-Covid speech, the remark of Councilor Nestor Archival stood out because it sounded like a plaintive lament.

His gripe is that the City Council, in bipartisan moves, has offered many initiatives to help the campaign against the coronavirus plague. But they're not being implemented, he said, indicating the mayor's office gets the money it asks for and the City Council appropriates but ignores its proposals on anti-Covid measures.

"UNSA MAN TA ANI?" That is largely the City Council's doing because it granted lump sums in supplementary budgets, totaling almost P3 billion, to the mayor who is given wide discretion of spending provided the expense is Covid-related. A liquidation repeatedly sought by the City Council is still to be done, or made public.

"Unsa man ta ani?" Archival almost wailed, suggesting they might as well stop doing their job.

"Never give up," VM Rama said, but not offering any explanation for the "snub" by the executive department because he himself occasional complains of being shut out from the action in the fight against Covid.

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