THERE’S a disappointing lack of empathy in the way some Cebu City Government officials are treating a group of students who live in its condominium in Barangay Sambag 1.

Last week, while they prepared for their upcoming exams, some of the students were reportedly told they had to get endorsements from their barangays before Oct. 1, if they wanted to continue staying in the City’s building. Those who managed to get endorsements from their barangay captains were then told they had asked for help from the wrong persons. They were ordered, instead, to get endorsements from “the mayor’s representatives” in their barangays.

“The world goes around,” Mayor Tomas Osmeña told journalists last Monday, the same day he said that the aggrieved students could sue him, if they so wished.

What did these selected students do to provoke the mayor’s anger? Did they violate conditions set in City Ordinance 2174, which governed the conversion of the socialized housing facility into a dorm for students from the mountain barangays? Did they fail to pay the P350 each month that the City collects for the space they shared with other students like them?

All of the occupants—and not just the students being targeted by some City Hall officials now—must have heard last June about the plans to fix the 20-year-old building. Three months ago, two departments told then Acting Mayor Margarita Osmeña that the building was in dire need of repairs. Its ceilings were collapsing, its plumbing system wrecked, and its walls shot through with cracks. At the time, the acting mayor said that keeping the 600 or so student-occupants safe would be the City’s priority.

So what has changed since then?

Had the City been serious about building renovations, it would have taken steps to inform all of its occupants ahead of time. It could have asked all the occupants to move out before the school year started. Instead, it gave the students the false hope that they could stay—safe both from the building’s defects and the petty bureaucrats in charge of it—and then decided to put the City’s scholars through this ordeal.

It seems to be a tough lesson that one shouldn’t rely on one’s government or political connections, and given the dismal circumstances, may not be a bad lesson at all.