ONE of the popular stories on the Sun.Star website yesterday, Monday, was the purchase of cars for Cebu City Hall department heads.

This is a good thing about interconnection, the Internet and a website that allows people to react to what they read. On the Sun.Star website at www.sunstar.com.ph, pages viewed by visitors or articles read by people who visit the website are counted.

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The most viewed article goes to the top of the “Popular” listing.

For the website’s Cebu section yesterday, Monday, the most popular turned out to be the story titled “20 Cebu City Hall executives to get new cars.” This was the top choice at one point because at any time during the day the most popular story may change depending on the views on other articles.

There is no human intervention involved in this automated measurement of what visitors to the website are reading. Once an article is opened, a view to that report is counted.

But a popular ranking does not necessarily mean the people who read it agree with what is in the article. It might even be to the contrary because controversial reports tend to rate higher in popularity rankings especially if the news is the kind that offends public sensibilities.

This particular article was on the acquisition by the Cebu City Government of new vehicles for 20 of its department heads. Councilor Joey Daluz was quoted in the Sun.Star Cebu report as saying the P27-million purchase was prepared by officials when they worked last year on the budget.

The report said Mayor Michael Rama personally distributed the new vehicles to the department heads and asked them to meet his expectations. He said the cars would boost the officials’ pride and confidence and inspire them to do their job well. “They should be sensitive now that they have that mobility. Mo-enhance gyud ilang serbisyo (Their services would be enhanced),” Rama said.

As to City Hall’s old cars, Daluz said he will recommend an auction of vehicles bought five years ago or earlier. Auctioning them off would bring down fuel consumption and maintenance costs, he said. Older cars need more maintenance than new ones. Daluz chairs the City Council committee on budget and finance.

City Hall’s General Services Office has asked for P30 million for fuel, oil and lubricants for the City Government’s 1,273 vehicles for October to December. Daluz said this amount was too much and asked the services office for an inventory of City Hall vehicles. He said the City might save some money if it disposes of vehicles five years old or older.

But anyone serious about trying to cut down on vehicle costs will have other options to buying new ones and selling off old units.

A website visitor posted this comment after the article: “If the government was really serious about wanting to save on fuel and oil costs then why not make government agencies and employees park the government vehicles every night in a secure maintenance garage and not allow any vehicle to go out except for government business?

We all see during weekends and late at night, red-plate vehicles driving around with family members doing their personal business. Who do you think pays for the gas?

Unless a government official is on government business, then park it.”

(ninicab@sunstar.com.ph)