EDITORIAL - Rama now in the best of positions

The Freeman

Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama, now serving out a two-month suspension, has taken to riding jeepneys after returning to the city government the official vehicle issued to him for his use. There is, of course, a reason for this insistence to ride jeepneys, considering that Rama is not without friends willing to lend him a car in the meantime.

And that reason is to let the public see what his political opponents have done to him, in order to court their sympathy. Nothing wrong with that. Political gimmickry is free and open to everybody. Nobody charges anyone anything for engaging in an activity that could win public support. The only thing Rama may be asked to pay in relation to this tack is the jeepney fare.

But Rama must make use of his time riding jeepneys. It is not enough to be seen riding public transport and be pitied. Rama may have been suspended but he is still the mayor. The politically-motivated suspension -- for demolishing a stupid center island that obstructed traffic in Labangon and posed a danger to motorists at night -- cannot in any way erase the popular mandate Rama won in the last election.

A jeepney ride is a great observation and listening post for those willing to take note and feel the pulse of the public. It provides a great opportunity to rub elbows with a cross-section of the Cebuano public. Rama can either introduce himself to his fellow passengers and solicit their concerns, or he can pretend to fall asleep and listen unobtrusively to what people talk about.

But even if no passenger dares to strike up a conversation with the mayor, just by simply being in a jeepney can give Rama tremendous insights to how ordinary Cebuanos go about their lives. Rama can take note of who pays with crisp paper bills or who struggles to come up with the correct amount of fare in small coins. He can find out who smells and who just had a bath.

He can observe the kind of cellphones people use and who uses them. He can watch the behavior of the driver, as well as his conductor. He can even take note of road conditions during the ride -- from the traffic to the state of street repairs. There are really a hundred or more things Rama can learn while riding a jeepney that he can never learn riding his official vehicle or staying in his office or listening to the reports of others. Or singing.

The suspension of Rama can actually work to his advantage, not just in terms of politics, but in gaining valuable insights and first hand information that can lead to actual understanding of the life that the people he leads live. More than being rendered inutile by the politically-motivated suspension, Rama can in fact gain so much more that his enemies may now be wishing they did not do what they did.



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