VARIOUS local government units (LGUs) in Metro Cebu have launched an all-out campaign to clear our streets of sidewalk and ambulant vendors. This is in response to the call of President Rodrigo Duterte to take back and reclaim public roads that had been used for private purposes. The President issued the directive during his fourth State of the Nation Address in an apparent bid to ease traffic congestion, especially in various areas in Metro Manila.
“Reclaim all public roads that are being used for private ends. There are lots of them there. And again, I asked Interior Secretary (Eduardo) Año to see to it that it is enforced,” the President said. The President also gave the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) secretary the authority and power to suspend local chief executives who refuse or fail to comply with his directive.
The first to react to the President’s order was Manila Mayor Isko Moreno, who cleared the Divisoria area of sidewalk and ambulant vendors. Moreno was pleased because of his political will despite the tempting offer from stall owners to bribe him. Locally, Cebu City Mayor Edgardo Labella also launched an all-out campaign against sidewalk vending, especially in the Carbon area and Magallanes and Colon Streets. The Prevention, Restoration, Order, Beautification and Enhancement (Probe) team succeeded in its clearing operations, especially along Colon St. But it only lasted several days. Now, some vendors are back but they are fewer and are regulated and better organized.
Vendors are allowed to display their wares but on certain conditions. Only some 200 vendors were allowed to return after they complied with the requirements, such as securing a barangay clearance and the consent of the owner of the establishment where they set up shop. They should also be voters of the city. According to Probe chief Raquel Arce, most of the vendors allowed to return are members of the Gugmang Alyansa Sumbanan sa Asenso.
I thought that there was no more compromise and that the City’s political leadership already had the political will to clear the city’s sidewalks of vendors. There had been far more people who had been deprived of the use of sidewalks compared to those people who made a living there. But these sidewalk users opted to be the silent majority. They were happy when the City’s chief executive initiated the clearing operation. But later on, they were disappointed because the City’s political leadership caved in and came up with a compromise deal with affected stakeholders. Was that because of humanitarian or political consideration? I thought the City Government would look for an area where these vendors could be accommodated so they could continue to make a living without disturbing the majority.
It was already a good move by the City’s chief executive. But with this “little consideration and accommodation,” can they effectively monitor what was agreed on with those affected vendors? How sure are they that these vendors will follow to the letter the conditions imposed and they will not abuse it like what they did in the past?
There is no question Mayor Labella is a kindhearted, compassionate and considerate person. But being a leader, sometimes we have to decide for the better of the majority. Sometimes our decisions will displease someone, but we have to take a stand on matters that will affect the majority. I am not saying that we will just disregard or dump these people like rags or hot potatoes. They are human beings, too. But we have to instill order in our streets. Why not put them in an area where they cannot disturb other people?
If our leaders have no political will and determination, any undertaking is doom ed to fail. Political will is defined as the “firm intention or commitment of a government to carry through a policy, especially one that is not immediately successful or popular.”
When you hear a public official or pundit say that the reason this or that desirable thing cannot be done is because of a lack of political will, what you are actually hearing is a person blaming another person’s moral failings.
Talisay City and Lapu-Lapu City are doing the same. Let us see if the leaders of these LGUs will also have political will.