Cebu Updates, the current iteration of what used to be the Cebu City Public Information Office (PIO) Facebook page, mocked the decision by Mayor Michael Rama’s administration to hold the Sinulog grand parade at the South Road Properties.
BREAKING NEWS, the page bannered one of its posts, “Sinulog sa Lunangan posibleng madayon gyud!! Bring your own Kabaw.” (Rough translation: Sinulog to be held in the wallows. Bring your own carabao.)
The post shines a spotlight on the issue over the failure to turn over digital assets such as Facebook pages from one government administration to another. Notable failures to turn over Facebook credentials include those in Lapu-Lapu City when Mayor Ahong Chan took over from former mayor Paz Radaza. Even the Sinulog page had some issues some years back.
According to Facebook info, Cebu Updates was created on May 2, 2012 as the Cebu City Public Information Office during the previous term by Mayor Michael Rama. Its name was changed to City of Cebu, Public Information Office on August 3, 2016. It was changed to Cebu City Public Information Office on January 27, 2018, during the administration of Mayor Tomas Osmeña and at a time when Malou Inocando-Tabar was PIO. Tabar said she turned over admin access to former PIO Razel Cuizon, who served under the late Mayor Edgardo Labella.
When Mayor Rama took over after Labella’s death in November 2021, however, his team used another Facebook page for the PIO, one that was created on November 9, 2011 as Barug Sugbo TV. The old PIO page was then renamed to Cebu Updates on January 5, 2022.
I asked current Cebu City PIO Cerwin Eviota about this and he said the page wasn’t turned over to their team. “None that I received,” Eviota told me when I asked if the page was turned over to them. Another contact, however, told me this wasn’t the case.
Cebu Updates now posts information and updates about Cebu. Facebook info said at least 7 people run the page.
I haven’t been able to find clear guidelines on the turnover of government digital assets such as Facebook pages but Department of Information and Communications Technology Central Visayas Director Frederick Amores said what is important is to first establish the facts of the issue on ownership and turnover. He noted that the new page, Cebu City News & Information, “has now been declared as that of the city government (but this really requires paperwork/docs to establish this fact).”
“That being said, I think what the new PIO did was the correct move as it is going to be very tedious and probably futile (as the page has changed name, had it not, the city may have tried to file a case of fraud against the page owner for misrepresentation (sakto sad move sa page owner to change the name),” Amores posted as a comment on my Facebook post.
Whatever the nebulous regulations are on these digital assets, I think that what we should consider is that these pages were built and run for years using government resources. Local government employees using government-owned equipment and paid for by government funds were the ones who built these accounts into the large communities that they are now.
This failure to turn over digital assets is also a disservice to citizens who already liked what was then the official account in order to get updates from the government agencies they represented. It also brings new officials to a disadvantage because they have to rebuild agency pages from scratch. The current Cebu City PIO page only has 44K followers compared with Cebu Updates, which has 291K followers. The Cebu Updates following was built over the years by different Cebu City PIO heads and employees.
This will be a continuing cycle, at least at Cebu City Hall. The current PIO team is building a website separate from the official Cebu City Government portal. The PIO publishes on cebucity.news, which is apparently hosted on the WordPress paid service platform. If Mayor Rama leaves his post either by losing an election or running out his term, would this be turned over to the next mayor?