Cebuanos complacent and stubborn?
FROM FAR AND NEAR - Ruben Almendras (The Freeman) - June 30, 2020 - 12:00am

Among the reasons that PRRD gave for sending former general Cimatu to Cebu last week to help in the COVID-19 pandemic was that Cebuanos are complacent and stubborn. This is a generalization that was debated and contested by many people in main and social media, and an issue worth digging deeper into, not just for Cebuanos, but for all Filipinos and people in general. There are Americans, Europeans, Asians, and all kinds of people all over the world who are not really following the suggested precautions of wearing face masks, physical distancing, crowding, and staying at home.

Human behavior in crisis situations like a pandemic has been studied as an extension of many behavior studies by many sociologists, political scientists and economists. This is important because social studies have no controlled laboratories, but use the open social environment as their laboratories to test theories on human behavior. While it is difficult to arrive at a predominant human reaction or behavior in a given situation, the objective is to get the most probable/possible behavior of the majority or the average person, the average person being an artificial construct representing 70%/80% of the people. Economists also use this concept of the “average rational man” to determine consumer behavior.

There are actually many factors that affect human behavior and are as varied as there are locations. Geography, environment/climactic conditions, economics, demographics, education levels, and politics are some of them. Hot and cold weather affects people’s temperament, the stage of economic development/wealth distribution/poverty levels are catalysts for extreme behavior, and the young, educated, and uneducated react differently. The prevailing national and local politics which depends on the credibility and capability of the leaders are also major factors in the eventual behavior or misbehavior of people during pandemics.

To effectively and efficiently influence human behavior in this pandemic or in any other situation, the above factors are the givens/backdrops that have to be known, as these cannot be changed in the short term. The authorities have to make a plan, organize, implement, and control, given these prevailing conditions. These are the management and governance parameters. The inadequacy of Cebu and the national government in managing the COVID-19 pandemic is a management and governance issue. There was enough information on the different environments and even the favorable fiscal and monetary conditions of the country at the outset of the pandemic, but the planning, implementing, and control were wanting. The government and Cebu City in particular, is not organized to handle the pandemic. The implementors who are the barangay leaders were far but directly under the mayor, the councilors were not utilized, and the City Hall departments were not properly empowered and coordinated. Planning could also be faulted due to the dearth of available competency as the new mayor had to scout for willing and able staff with the deficiency of the political structure. As a consequence, there was an absence in the control mechanism. The available and generated data before and during the pandemic were inadequate and faulty compounding the management problem. “You cannot manage what you cannot measure”.

While it is difficult to define or there may not be an average Cebuano or person, there is a normal distribution of personal characteristics/temperaments which can be represented in a “normal curve” or a “Poisson distribution”. Most people would fall under 80% to 90% of the curve, while 10% to 20% would be in the fringes, depending on the steepness of the curve. Good governance and good management flatten this distribution curve, (also the COVID-19 infection curve), leaving the complacent and stubborn in the fringes.

Cebuanos, are not more complacent and stubborn than other Filipinos, they were just not as well-managed as those in other areas. Look at Pasig, Marikina, Baguio, and Valenzuela.

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