IN A highly polarized setup, every action is subjected to scrutiny, with the scrutinizers bringing with them their biases and, with the addition of a highly politicized situation, their political leanings and intentions. Objectivity is difficult to achieve, like what is happening now in Cebu City.
One contentious issue is President Duterte’s decision to send here retired general Roy Cimatu and other national officials to help in the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic in Cebu and in even other areas in Central Visayas. The political opposition led by former mayor Tomas Osmeña naturally jumped at the opportunity to portray local government officials, like Cebu City Mayor Edgardo Labella, as incompetent.
Of course, the rise in the number of Covid 19 cases here can be attributed to various factors, with leadership only but one of them. But zeroing in mainly on government officials serves a purpose for these critics, which is to use this as an investment of sorts for the next election – even if the election is still far away.
Which is also what the political opposition conveniently wants its constituents to overlook. When the Covid-19 pandemic hit us early this year, incumbent officials were only a few months in their posts. Some incumbents were quick to reorganize the bureaucracy while others weren’t. In Cebu City, the Labella administration had barely settled into their roles when the pandemic hit. Worse, this is one test that does not have a template unlike, say, typhoons like Ruping.
The sending here of Cimatu and the others should have therefore been considered a welcome help in our battle against the pandemic if public interest is our main concern. Yet political opponents are focusing instead on making political capital out of it.
Not only that. Instead of helping us to finally win the battle against the pandemic, these political opponents are always on the prowl for issues to use against the incumbents. For example, there is currently this effort to put a wedge between Cimatu and his group and local government officials like Labella. This is counterproductive because in time of crisis, everybody must be marching in step and doing so for the common good.
How can one be effective in one’s efforts with the constant sniping by people on the sidelines? This has become doubly and even triply difficult because of a technology that has democratized not only information but also misinformation dissemination. It is easy now to assassinate characters, sort of, using available mediums. And that makes governance and the handling of crises difficult for the government.
What should warm the hearts of the political opposition led by Osmeña is that the difficulty encountered by the Labella admininistration could prove the line it used during the 2019 political campaign. The Bando Osmeña-Pundok Kauswagan (BOPK) harped on Osmeña being a performer, that is why he claimed to be the man behind the South Road Properties and the proposed Bus Rapid Transit project.
Unfortunately for the BOPK, the elections are still miles away and the Labella administration still has time to bounce back.