Sunday , June 24, 2018

Seares: #TomasHashtagStinksLikeDumpsite

AT worst, the vulgar words referring to the woman’s sex organ, as used in Cebu City Mayor Tomas Osmea’s Facebook account, were in gross bad taste, unbefitting any person of high rank or even the plain citizen who believes good manners still matter. Political rivals blame the mayor for the offense.

At best, the coarse words were produced in a moment of naughtiness, if not meanness, by the person who writes and uploads the content in the mayor’s Facebook account. Not my words and not with my knowledge or consent, Mayor Osmena said in an apology.

What must have set it off was the dispute over the garbage dump in Inayawan, Pardo. The mayor wants to buy chemicals to remove or reduce the stink at the site. Team Rama councilors think it goes against the reason for its closure, which they say the court has ordered.

His defense

Mayor Tomas tried to dodge responsibility by saying (1) he didn’t do it and (2) he didn’t approve it.

As limp as an excuse can get, the kind that crumbles in a second. He is the account holder and purported writer or speaker. In the space, the mayor uses “I” with several photos of himself to support his words as he talks about his work as mayor. Now he says, “not me”?

Disowning work

Private person or public official, more so if one is a public figure, one doesn’t disown what he presents to the public as his: be it a speech, an op-ed piece in the paper, or a blog or some lines in social media.

Sen. Tito Sotto and a prominent businessman didn’t deny they wrote the speeches they delivered although obviously it was their ghostwriters who plagiarized for them. Ghosts don’t get credit but neither the blame, not in public particularly.

Going to court

Team Rama members are raring to go to court over the vulgarity, which has been the talk of the town since the story erupted.

In the course of the running dispute over the Inayawan dumpsite, the mayor was annoyed by Team Rama’s “obstruction.” His hash tag indicated a foul mood: “#TeamRamaBahogBi..t.” Which scandalized Councilor Joy Pesquera, the only high-profile woman member of Team Rama.

What’s the charge? Surely, not libel. Coarse but not defamatory. Maybe, violation of public official’s code of conduct.

More pressing issue

But why bother. A lawsuit over vulgar words won’t help move the debate on Inayawan forward. Team Rama ought to aim higher, towards the target, which is to protect and promote public interest: a sound, definitive policy on garbage disposal.

City Hall might be running circles around the court order to close the dump site. If they must sue, Team Rama councilors may do better if it zeroes in on the more pressing and more weighty issue.