Every bit of resource thrown into the effort to respond to the on-going COVID-19 pandemic is welcome, not the least the “free shuttle services” being deployed by “vice president” Leni Robredo through her office. However, a very important question needs to be asked: Why does Leni Robredo’s name and that of her office need to be prominently-displayed on tarps fastened to these shuttle vehicles? What utility does the information in those tarps serve the public?
Consider for a moment the perspective of the average Filipino commuter. All a public transport patron really needs to know about a public transport vehicle is where it is going and, perhaps, that the service is free. Any information beyond that is nothing but noise.
A basic principle of communication engineering is maximising signal-to-noise ratio in a channel. In the case of a typical public utility vehicle (PUV), the signal is the route information and the noise is all the rest of the decals adorning the vehicle. In much the same way many public buses allow some space to display advertising on its exteriors, one can argue that those tarps signalling Robredo’s “caring” to the public constitute a form of advertising. This raises the question:
What is “vice president” Leni Robredo advertising?
People are likely to be able to work out the answer to that question on their own. The point is, the tarps clearly don’t serve any purpose other than whatever interests Robredo seeks to advertise. Robredo says she want to contribute. Everyone is happy that she does. The difference is, many who do do so quietly. Robredo’s intent in having those tarps adorning her buses is to do so noisily.
If Robredo’s office were sincere about the public service they are delivering, it should be reflected in the way they inform the public about said service. And a key principle in the information business is to not over-inform and minimise noise to enhance the signal. Even with the best of intentions, we do tend to over-inform — providing more information than is needed to get the job done. In this case, those tarps adorning Robredo’s shuttle services clearly do not represent any best intentions — only insidious ones.
In times of crises, citizens need to look to a unified government that is in solidarity with their needs. Dividing government services into brands and cults of personality runs counter to this. There is no value to ordinary people in differentiating government services between one politician or the other. What Filipinos need are government services, PERIOD. They just need to know what that service delivers. In the case of public transport, people just need to know where the damn bus is going before they board it!
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