Seares: Did local news fumble on story about P18M portalets and portabaths for Palaro? Budget not scrapped, items were just rebid.

Media’s Public
Seares: Did local news fumble on story about P18M portalets and portabaths for Palaro? Budget not scrapped, items were just rebid.
SunStar front page on May 29, 2024.

[1] A problem in communicating by Acting Mayor Garcia? Apparent act of misleading the public, alleges broadcaster Jason Monteclar

[2] Or media could’ve done better in reporting the story.

LOOK AT HOW LOCAL MEDIA REPORTED last May 28 and 29 [2024] the news that Acting Mayor (AM) Raymond Alvin Garcia “scrapped” or “cancelled” the P18 million budget to rent “portalets” and “portabaths” for the Palarong Pambansa Cebu City will principally host this July.

[] SunStar headline: “P18M portalet budget rent scrapped,” with this line in the lead paragraph, “The Cebu City Government will no longer spend P18 million to rent portalets and portabaths…”

[] Headline of The Freeman: “Palarong Pambansa 2024: P18M portalets rental cancelled,” leading the story with “(The acting mayor) announced the cancellation of the of the P18 million rental of portalets and portabaths” for the national sports games,

[] Cebu Daily News Digital headline: “Garcia cancels procurement of portabaths, portalets,” saying in its lead, “(The acting mayor) has ordered the the cancellation of current procurement activities” on renting portabaths and portalets for the Palaro.

WITH HEADLINE AND FIRST PARAGRAPH of each story cited above -- stories from which most Cebuanos must have directly or indirectly learned about AM Garcia’s decision -- many readers erroneously got this sense: The rental portalets and portabaths are out. The City Government won’t have them in the Palaro budget.

SunStar was specific in its lead: “The Cebu City Government will no longer spend…” Freeman said, unqualifiedly, “(The acting mayor) has ordered the cancellation…” CDN was technically accurate, in saying correctly what was cancelled, namely, “current procurement activities.”

MEDIA COULD’VE DONE MORE. The stories could’ve clarified -- in the headline and the lead with explanation in the body -- that while bidding for the portalets and portabaths was cancelled, there would be a rebidding, of the same articles but in much-reduced sums, depending on the committee’s recommendation.

The fact that followed the lead in the Freeman report related about other LGUs joining the hosting, not just some of the games but also the athletes’ stay, in effect telling the reader there may be reduced zero need for portalets and portabaths.

The CDN news included AM Garcia’s announcement at the press-con that he had written to the goods and services bids and awards committee that the portalets and portabaths were “no longer economically, financially, or technically feasible, considering the necessity of securing additional funds” for the Palaro.

Garcia also said the procurement was “cancelled” but “may be opened again for submission of bids” provided the requirements and procedures of the Procurement Law (Republic Act No. 9184, Section 41) were met. That part was underplayed, obscured or buried by media.

SunStar quoted the acting mayor, which could’ve alerted media and the public that the portalets and portabaths were not yet out. Such as this Garcia statement:

--- “Prangka-prangka nga pagka-istorya. I let them review once again… to determine what is necessary and needed. I am not saying nga dili na ta mo-rent og portalets. But what I am saying is (the amount) is going to be much, much less.”

Garcia was waving to the news reporters what he was saying and what he’ wasn’t saying.

‘SCRAPPING’ OR ‘CANCELLING’ COULD CONFUSE PUBLIC, especially readers who glance at the headline and the first sentence of a news story.

Which could lead to misunderstanding or misinterpreting the story. Many readers must have thought what was scrapped was the budget, or more precisely, the spending of funds allotted for portalets and portabaths. When in fact, as it turned out, what was eliminated was only the earlier bidding on the same articles.

Understated, or covered by other facts of the story, was that the committee that drew up the budget was given the chance to make another recommendation and bidding, albeit in “much, much” smaller amount, for the same portalets and portabaths the Palaro would need.

If “scrapping” or “cancelling” was used, as here local news outlets did, the word should’ve been qualified in the same line, something like: “P18M bid on portalets scrapped; new bidding set.”

CRITICISM ON GARCIA’S HANDLING of the budget item on portalets and portabaths probably would have not been as vigorous as was broadcaster Jason Monteclar’s Facebook video comment Friday, June 14 -- if only the news source delivered facts and media reported them clearly enough.

Monteclar’s latest “Not So Late Night Show” piece was longer and harsher on the matter of alleged deception, which comprised of making people the public believe the portalets and portabaths had been struck off the Palaro budget when they were still very much in the shopping list.

A new invitation to bid -- published after the supposed scrapping or cancellation -- would procure for the Palaro 2024:

-- 118 units rental of portalets with cover and shower, with approved budget of P5,215,600;

-- 230 units of portable shower rooms, P8,445,600.

Previously, the committee had asked for 248 portalets and 230 portabaths, lumped under one item, totaling P21.963 million, later corrected to P18 million. The changes: portalets and portable shower rooms, instead of portalets and portabaths; the items are split and the total is P13.6-plus million, down from P18 million.

Monteclar saw alleged malice and deception in separating the amounts but fumed mostly on City Hall allegedly telling the public one thing and doing another. The latter rankled more but Monteclar -- whose comment helped inspire the acting mayor’s review of the Palaro spending -- also suspected overpricing. He cited one example on rental rates but more evidence is obviously required to prove fraud.

REPORTING AND GETTING THE STORY RIGHT is instructed by the handling of the news about portalets-portabaths/portable shower rooms. Discussion or debate is more productive if the facts are given by the news source, and reported by media, as fully and clearly as can be.

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