Wenceslao: ‘Radyo baktas’

Bong O. Wenceslao

I READ online a post by Cebu City Administrator Floro Casas Jr. clarifying the distribution process for the financial aid for senior citizens. That’s more like it, I should say. I always believe that if the constituents are knowledgeable and enlightened, they won’t be prone to confusion, making them vulnerable to misinformation or disinformation.

I just hope, though, that Casas’s clarification would reach the intended audience. But to say that posts online would suffice is to be naive about the principles of communication. While social media can be considered powerful, it cannot, in the Cebu setting, supplant the hold on our people that phenomenon called “radyo baba” or “radyo baktas.”

This is why I have been at a loss on why information has not been given importance at the barangay level, unlike say firefighting and policing. As they say, the pen is mightier than the sword. If a barangay has a barangay tanod, it must have at least one information officer. A well-trained and well-guided barangay information officer can clarify government policies down to the grassroots and prevent confusion, not to say misinformation and disinformation like those spread online.

The administration of Cebu City Mayor Edgardo Labella started well with the formation of the Mayors Information and Liaison Office (Milo) but apparently got lost along the way. This is probably because of the lack of understanding of the “information” aspect of its task, especially at the height of the pandemic caused by the coronavirus. Or should I say this is because of the failure of those who created Milo to grasp the importance of information in governance.

How does this work? Let us take Casas’s clarification as an example. That clarification should not be left to rot online or even to float fleetingly in traditional media reports. It can be posted in Milo offices at the barangay level and if Milo people did its job well, they could already have bulletin boards at the chapel level where the clarifications can be posted. Or better still, Milo people can do recoridas to explain Casas’s message. Kun ang manindag tambal kamao ana, nganong di man sila kamao sad ana?

As an aside, the Cebu City Government should not be too overly reliant on traditional and social media in information dissemination. It has the resources and, with Milo, even created the machinery for information dissemination down to the grassroots.

The people in communities and upland areas are more reliant on “radyo baba” or “radyo baktas” for information because they don’t read newspapers, listen to the radio or watch television. Some of them may have cell phones but they largely use this for other purposes than information gathering.

By the way, I know that the Labella administration is overly focused on defending itself from critics, some of whom are paid opposition propagandists. I have no problem with that. But if Labella feels he is doing his best and honestly, he should not worry about black propaganda. But first, he needs to straighten out some of his failings now.