VENDING in Cebu City's sidewalks has long been criticized by some sectors, especially by those who feel deprived of the use of the sides of the streets resulting in their inconvenience and jeopardizing their safety. But vendors serve a need and vending provides them with a livelihood, a point the Cebu City Government has recognized and which prompted it to put order in their presence on the sidewalks through the years.
City Hall eventually encouraged vendors not only on the sidewalks but also in the city's public markets to organize themselves for better supervision. A product of that organizing effort was the Cebu City United Vendors Association (CCUVA), which has grown into the biggest organization of vendors in the city. But while CCUVA's existence did make regulating vending both in the public markets and the sidewalks easier, it also opened CCUVA to political manipulations.
Cebu City Mayor Tomas Osmeña seems to be on the warpath now against CCUVA, claiming he has received numerous complaints against some of its members for blocking the sidewalks in front of some establishments and accusing the organization of collecting millions of pesos from members using City Hall's name. What he did not say was that CCUVA officials may have supported his rival in the May 9 elections, former mayor Michael Rama.
The mayor has announced blacklisting CCUVA officials and members, zeroing in on the group's adviser, Ermita Barangay Captain Felicisimo Rupinta, one of the stalwarts of Team Rama. Osmeña did not say what “blacklisting” would amount to although he warned vendors that are subject of the complaint of store owners to leave the sidewalk within 48 hours. But harsher moves may follow.
The problem with having a mayor who may be driven by vengeance and politicking is that objectively rationalizing the vendors' existence would be difficult. That applies, too, to vendors that succumb easily to the wiles of politicians.
Osmeña may be honest in his intentions to put order on the city's sidewalks but the attack on CCUVA could also be seen as part of the mayor's effort to break its resolve, forcing it to either break into factions or to transfer its allegiance to him.