A POST last Sunday, August 21, 2023, on the Facebook page of Cebu Updates belied Mayor Mike Rama's "press release" -- sourced to the City Government's Cebu City News & Information -- that the mayor had left for the United States to accept a Lifetime Achievement award from America Excellence Awards in Hollywood, California.
Rama is not an awardee, said the post attributed to one Anne Legazpi, "DAKONG BAKAK ang press release" of the mayor and City Hall's news outlet. A SunStar story of Monday, August 22, was headlined, "Cebu Updates claims Rama lied about award, possibly went to US for medical treatment; City Hall says no truth to FB report."
THERE WAS AN AWARD FOR RAMA and the clutch of 27 or so photos published by CCNI following the C.U. post must have been aimed to make a "big liar" of Anne Legazpi. The images showing the mayor in various segments of the event, on top of AME's certificate, should refute any claim of falsehood and fakery.
But Rama is apparently not in the digitally published list. Atty. Floro Casas Jr. Tuesday, August 22, sent me a screenshot of the AME list of winners, saying it was taken that morning. It didn't have Mayor Mike in the list. It had Lifetime Achievement awardees but only Atty. Majul Usman Gandamra and Rey PJ Abellana were listed.
Yet Mayor Mike did receive a Lifetime Achievement award and he had as witnesses an audience that included his wife Malou and two children, and evidence in a mounted certificate. Participation in the awards ceremony should prevail over a list prepared before the event.
Casas, an administrator of the FB page, said his staff had checked the name Anne Legazpi ("her FB account appears legit") and noted the heading over the list, namely, "Congratulations to all the American Excellence Awardees." To him, the headline is saying that the awardees are only those in the list; publication was supposed to cut off any addition or correction.
POLITICIANS TOO. It might initially raise suspicion that AME awards celebrate the American business as a whole and commit "to excellence and best practices" that set the standard for others to follow, "across a wide range of industries." The awardees are recognized for "their contributions to the American business landscape." Isn't that a limit on its choice of awardees?
Maybe not, since the list includes politicians who technically are not in any business or industry and generally provide no best practice for business and industry. One other Lifetime Achievement awardee -- who was both in the list and at the ceremony -- is the Marawi City mayor, Atty. Majul Usman Gandamara.
BIG LEAP FROM NOT-IN-THE-LIST TO DAKONG BAKAK. Apparently, Lopez and, by extension, Cebu Updates slipped when it charged Mayor Rama with lying and lying big.
They didn't wait to check on the actual event, whether he was at the Hollywood affair and actually given the award. The fact of being awarded was the core issue, not the listing, though the omission was a bit suspicious and thus interesting.
A source close to the mayor told me also Tuesday that Mayor Mike was at the time in his house, singing at a karaoke session. The source said he didn't go to the awards ceremony but Mike's wife, his lawyer son, and a toddler accompanied the mayor. That proved he was still in the US; the photos and video clips proved the actual giving and acceptance of the award.
ON THE MAYOR BEING SICK. Legazpi in her post said that because Rama already lied about the award, she hoped he wouldn't lie about his true medical condition and would show his medical certificate and laboratory test results.
Legazpi tripped on the premise for the demand for medical records. Could she still ask for them since it was shown that Mayor Mike did not lie about the award?
There must be a solid reason for such a medical request. A public official can't heed every request but won't have a reason to refuse if there's a reasonable basis for it.
Rama was then vice mayor to mayor Edgardo Labella when he demanded that the public be told about the "true state of health" of the chief executive, citing fact, not speculation, that tended to show Labella was probably no longer physically fit to lead. A MyCebu story of February 9, 2021 carried this heading: "Rama asks Labella: Tell people true state of your health, Cebu City needs 'visible and active leader. " Mayor Mike can argue now he's still "very visible and very active" but not when he'd also have, "heavens forbid," serial visits to the hospital.
And what would be wrong if, as part of his US trip, Mayor Mike did have, or would submit to, medical treatment or consultation? Pragmatic for many travelers abroad. A matter of public concern, yes, but only if a medical condition would affect the mayor's capability to govern -- or if he's open up, at nobody's prompting. Mayor Mike in Cebu more than once publicly talked about his diabetes, how much it's costing him. Also Tuesday, the news source told Explainer "we have diabetes but nothing else."
CEBU UPDATES was formerly owned, under a different Facebook name, by the City Government. But like most FB pages, it's not a regular media news outlet with duty of fairness and accountability. Responding to Legazpi's post on the award issue, City Administrator Collin Rosell asked that C.U. disclose the names of people running it just like a newspaper or broadcast station.
And C.U., like most FB pages, hides ownership of page or identity of those who comment or post. Real identity is often disclosed only when a lawsuit is filed. Administrators of those pages often believe they're not obliged to verify news or be balanced: as one press secretary once told a Senate committee meeting, in explaining faults and sins: "We're not journalists."
Yet Cebu Updates might want to meet some traditional media standards, which, good for its public and woe to City Hall, could make it a stronger, credible critic.