Wenceslao: Where CH failed

Bong O. Wenceslao

I WON'T describe that incident involving senior citizens in Cebu City as an epic failure, but it was a failure nevertheless. Senior citizens trooped to City Hall to get financial aid and in the process broke protocols designed to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. I heard Mayor Edgardo Labella on radio blame what happened on false information. I say it was an organizational failure, too, that led to communications failure.

I actually think the mayor was correct in forming the so-called Mayors Information and Liaison Office or Milo. Politics aside, the mayor needs a machinery that reaches down to the grassroots. I like the “information” aspect of Milo’s task especially now that we are in a crisis of sorts. That such an organization could not even correct a false information posted on Facebook means this information machinery is not functioning well.

Much of City Hall’s problem during this Covid 19-caused crisis is information -- either the lack of it or because of the disinformation spread by some sectors. But disinformation is external and City Hall does not have control of it. What it does have control of is the information it provides to its constituents.

I must admit that we are all experts on hindsight. But would the incident have happened if City Hall’s information machinery been functioning well especially at the grassroots level? And wasn’t Milo created precisely to keep the city’s villagers well-informed of City Hall’s intentions? That City Hall’s information machinery could not match a mere Facebook post is what I mean by organizational failure.

The senior citizens that trooped to City Hall were all from the barangays. Would they have massed there if they knew beforehand City officials were not intending to distribute the financial aid there? But how can City Hall tell the senior citizens that? By being creative and aggressive.

City Hall’s information dissemination effort has been overly reliant on two things, traditional media and social media. When the new administration created Milo, I thought it was ready to unleash the potentials of grassroots information dissemination. I imagined information groups roaming the sitios and community with their megaphones and sound systems and barangay wall newspapers sprouting everywhere. That didn’t happen, especially during those community quarantines.

Instead what we are hearing are unanswered complaints from constituents, fake news that are allowed to fester and the portrayal of Milo as a political organization. Meanwhile, the Labella administration has gotten defensive at every turn, it’s political enemies jumping at every perceived failure and misstep and slowly succeeding in portraying it as inept. Sad.

If there is one point that I am holding on to, it is the fact that the administration’s integrity has remained intact despite attempts to paint it as corrupt. I just hope it could continue to withstand scrutiny as the next local elections draw near.