EXPLAINER: Mike camp uses Margot’s ‘MOM’ catchword: copycat or bold counter-propaganda? Both. May prelude heavy sniping in campaign.

·4 min read

“MOM,” for “Margot Osmeña-Mayor” -- with the “O” enlarged, and the letters in blue and some shade of yellow, and the word “BOPK” underneath -- made its first public appearance last October 4 on the Facebook page of Tomas Osmeña, three days before she filed her certificate of candidacy for city mayor.

With the sticker-size propaganda was the former mayor’s “official” announcement, with the pitch that (1) the City needs “not a father but a caring mother” and (2) “our city needs help.”

Early this week, a similar “MOM” message surfaced, but in posts rooting for Mike Rama, Margot’s rival for the mayor’s seat, with a different meaning for the acronym: “Mike Our Mayor.”

Same artwork, using the same enlarged letter “O” but the two M's in red instead of blue and a white instead of yellow hole in the middle letter. Same typeface for MOM and same san-serif font for the lines “Mike Our Mayor” and “Margot Osmeña-Mayor” underneath.

‘NOT DOING HOMEWORK.’ Last Wednesday, November 2, Tomas, Margot’s husband and BOPK chief, reacted to the copying with this comment: “When you didn’t do your homework, so you have to copy others. Nice try hahahaha.” And underneath a poster/billboard-style version of the material is the claim: “The real, the original and the best!”

It is a clear case of copying by some Rama supporters. Whether it is actionable plagiarism is for legal experts or the court to decide. The fact is it is so direct and blatant -- the kind not done before in the local history of local propaganda -– that political watchers must think it is no ordinary copying.

Never before in Cebu’s political scene did the camp of one candidate for mayor circulate a sticker, and then the rival camp copied it in concept and look, just replacing name and color, purportedly to confuse voters about the message.

SUPPORTERS’ DOING.The response of the Rama camp could’ve been to come up with a more catchy catchphrase or slogan and argue that (a) the City needs more than a mother to solve its huge problems and/or (b) even if it does, Margot is not the mother for the job.

To be clear, Mike Rama has not officially adopted the MOM propaganda. His Facebook pages have not carried it. The Mike-MOM message has appeared only in social media posts of known Rama supporters, including a high-profile City Hall official. But Mike has not stopped it, indicating he approved or condoned its use and thus getting the blame for the “piracy.”

TOOLS OF PROPAGANDA. The Barug camp appropriating the MOM idea unmistakably wants to reduce its beneficial impact on Margot’s campaign.

Check out textbook methods in propaganda: such tools as testimonial, bandwagon, common man or woman (“plain folks”), patriotic imagery (“transfer”), the spin, touting accomplishments (“card-stacking”), negative labeling, name-calling, and positive information, with sparse facts, about the candidate (“glittering generalities”). The lists don’t include something akin to Barug’s Operation MOM.

To be sure, employing the mother’s virtues in advertising or selling is not new, but in Cebu politics it is. Cebu had its first woman governor in Governor Gwen Garcia (2004-2013; then 2019-2022). But Mary Ann de los Santos, who was anti-Osmeña then, failed in her attempt to win the title of Cebu City’s first woman mayor when she lost in 2007, by 83,000 votes, to Tomas Osmeña (with Mike Rama as his running mate). And neither used the MOM concept in one’s propaganda.

BOTH ARE PITCHING ‘MOM.’ Fast forward to 2022: Could Margot do it with the pitch that women could lead the City better? The Rama camp, instead of trying to beat the argument that mothers can solve the city’s ills more efficiently, wants to use the MOM concept too.

Former councilor Margot still has to expound on her and Tomas’s proposition that the mother can fix the city’s problems. All she said so far is that City Hall is like a badly run household and what she needs to do first is to put it in order. If Margot-MOM can do it, Mike-MOM can do it too, or so the appropriation of the MOM concept implies.

A REPEAT OF 2019? NOT QUITE.Shortly after the results of the 2019 election came out, declaring Tomas Osmeña’s loss to Edgardo Labella, then-freshly-stung Tomas posted a note of concession, the “don’t-feel-sorry-for-me” statement that a Zamboanga City councilor copied, almost word-for-word. You know how Tomas reacted? The same way he did to the copying of the MOM propaganda: “Do your own homework oi, hehe.”

In the MOM case, Tomas said, “hahahaha,” four “ha’s,” not just two “he’s” for the Zamboanga copier. And basic circumstance is different: the one copying here is the camp of wife Margot’s rival, to a post that Tomas lost in 2019 and the Osmenas would now like to regain.

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