CALL it lying, coated or veiled but still some kind of falsehood. But that's local politics, that's how some politicians behave, whatever the time or season.
When those who paid for the tarpaulin signs put them up at "various sidewalks" and "strategic places" in Cebu City barangays, they were supposedly being civic-spirited.
Who will find fault in such reminders as "Mask ta karon aron di matakdan," "Iwas sikit para di masakit," "Hugas kanunay Covid patay," Puyo sa balay aron way mahay." The message must be boring us to death by now but the rhyme in the tarp messages helps.
The signs urge people to follow anti-Covid health protocol. Amid the accusation that Cebuanos are stubborn and don't obey quarantine rules, the propaganda, even from politicians, appears legitimately motivated.
Enforcing the law
When City Hall through its "Probe" team -- the office whose people demolish illegal structures and evict vendors from sidewalks -- took the signs down, the given reason was there was no permit from City Hall.
The propagandists claim noble intention while City Hall claims lawful duty.
Opposition party BOPK, which is assumed to have put up the streamers, must want to help "educate" Cebuanos on benefits from obeying quarantine prohibitions. The City Government wants to enforce law and order.
Political angle, interest
Yet each side knows that its action is not fueled totally by what is right or legal but also by political interest. It is not bereft of the question, "What will benefit or hurt our party?"
It would boost the interest of BOPK that voters are reminded of Tomas Osmeña, the mayor whom incumbent Mayor Edgardo Labella drubbed in 2019 and would be raring to bring down Barug in 2022.
On the other side, it would be prudent and shrewd for Barug to disallow propaganda from its BOPK rival.
Barug leaders suspect that even during this period of emergency, Tomas and his people have been busy stoking the fire, raising such issues tied to the pandemic as "un-liquidated" chickens, "sloppily built" quarantine centers, and "dubious" steam inhalation kits. The propaganda seeks to promote BOPK's interest and hurt Barug's own.
'OK' use not innocent
The suspicious line in the otherwise non-partisan, educational material is the punch line so to speak. It says: "Tuman aron tanan OK."
"OK," says dyLA broadcaster Art Barrit has been in use for 81 years.
Language experts say 150 years but length of usage and the clarity of meaning from "OK" is not just what Barug sees.
"OK" has been used by the Osmeña camp since many elections past. The acronym, shorter than "Yes" and even illiterate voters understand, has been used by BOPK in many elections.
Shorthand for "Osmeña Kami," it's the campaign slogan of Tomas's father Serging (Cebu governor, 1951-1955; Cebu City mayor, 1959-1963) and adopted in the son's own campaigns (n 1988, 2001, 2013, 2016 and 2019 for mayor, and in 2010 for congressman). In August 2015, when then Barug councilor Mary Ann de los Santos defected to BOPK and welcomed Tomas in Lahug, the barangay hall, a newspaper account said, "was alive with colors of blue and green with the slogan 'WE'RE OK'."
Thus, the double meaning of the Covid-19 message "OK" associates well-being from obedience to quarantine rules with the Osmeña brand.
Rush in takedown
Who put up the streamers with the "OK" tucked into the message cannot coyly plead innocent of political motive. But the streamers are not being removed for that reason. City Hall cited lack of permit as the reason.
"Probe" though may have rushed into taking the tarps down. The rules, the last time we checked, require notice and response from the owners of the tarps unless they were patently dangerous and offensive. They are not.
But, hey, if BOPK were in power and Tomas were the mayor, he'd most likely remove tarp signs that carry the catch-line, "Barug Sugbo batok Covid."