A BIG part of why misinformation circulates is government being remiss in its task for transparency. Not that it is holding information. It simply is not going the extra mile to communicate information better to its constituents.
Most of what we know of the works, policies and decisions on the management of the coronavirus (Covid-19) crisis in Cebu City primarily comes from the press conferences that Cebu City Mayor Edgardo Labella makes, on a daily basis if lucky. Videos of these sessions can be found in the Cebu City Government website.
In his April 22, 2020 press conference, the mayor explained the protocol of where to place certain classifications of individuals—be they positive asymptomatic, positive with mild symptoms, etc. He named the facilities that are now in place for these individuals. It took him a good number of minutes explaining this to media. The situation leaves much of the information for media to interpret. The whole idea could have been easier to digest with an infographics he can post on social media.
Clarity and digestible information on a centralized platform is paramount at this time. Oftentimes, we only get a glimpse of what is happening on the ground from the personal social media posts of some officials, and they weren’t even mentioned in the mayor’s public announcements.
The National Government model is something the city can emulate. The Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF), with Secretary Karlo Nograles, announces regularly the policies and directions in the government’s Bayanihan efforts. The Department of Health, through Assistant Secretary Maria Rosario Vergeire, explains policies in relation to health. One need not strain one’s brain to explain something beyond one’s field of expertise.
That’s what we don’t have in Cebu City. Not even an online platform where we can farm clear, comprehensive information on the measures our government is taking in this fight against Covid-19.
We are not sure if we are yet halfway in this battle. On Wednesday, April 22, 2020, a staggering figure of 123 newly confirmed Covid-19 cases in the Cebu City Jail blows up in our face. No amount of half-truth can comfort the public that the spike is due to mass testing being only available recently. No, because the ugly part of the story is that transmissions had been boring a black hole in that part of the universe for weeks now, ready to swallow an entire herd.
So we know already this part of the story, that infections are in our midst. What we want to know is how government is managing them and the public expects no less than clarity and urgency in the manner information is supposedly delivered. Enough of this solipsistic, piecemeal communication that we’re getting. The taxpayers deserve better than that.
The Cebu Citizens-Press Council had laid out suggestions, to paraphrase: 1) A user-friendly website; 2) real-time response from government; 3) intelligent discourse among stakeholders.
We need every bit of information every step of the way. In case government doesn’t understand that, it’s also for its very own survival.