City of San Jose Del Monte (CSJDM), Bulacan – Netizens are quick to report suspicious signage suddenly appearing all over the City of San Jose Del Monte (SJDM). Several Facebook posts circulated online about this so-called AR sign on sidewalk plant boxes, walls, electric posts, center islands, etc.
The City of SJDM is a first-class city in the province of Bulacan. It is bounded by Santa Maria and Marilao to the west and Norzagaray in the north, Quezon and Rizal province in the east, while Quezon City and Caloocan are in the south. The head of the local government is Mayor Arthur B. Robes. His wife, Florida “Rida” Robes, is the current representative of San Jose del Monte City’s lone district.
What is the meaning of the AR Sign? Why is it everywhere in the City? Who’s responsible for putting them up there? And why are netizens irked by this?
The Controversial AR Sign
On March 1, 2021, the Facebook page of City Traffic Management – Sidewalk Clearing Operations Group posted several pictures about their ongoing project with the caption, “Bilang bahagi ng Face-lifting Project at pagpapaganda ng turismo ng Lungsod. Nagsasagawa ang CTM-SCOG ng paglalagay sa buong Lungsod ARya San joseño. Upang ipadama sa Lungsod na tyo ay patungo na sa Highly Urbanized City.”
The prefix ‘AR,’ according to CTM-SCOG, emphasizes the word “ARya” or “ARya San Joseño” or “ARangkada San Jose Del Monte”, in context, means go forth, depart, leave, or move forward quickly. In essence, they are promoting progressive change towards a highly urbanized city. In fact, SJDM is dubbed as “The Rising City.” In short, the AR sign is an official city-wide marketing campaign approved by CSJDM’s LGU.
Netizens reacted negatively with the CTM-SCOG’s overstretched explanation of what the AR sign really means. Netizens are quick to point out alleged connections with the incumbent mayor’s initials, AR or Arthur Robes. Others are speculating Arthur and Rida Robes’ political affiliation. There is an undeniable political color element, but they insist that this is a legitimate marketing campaign to promote the city’s battle cry for progressive change.
As of March 5, 2021, the viral post from CTM-SCOG has been shared more than 1,700 times, with 900 plus comments and 1,800 mixed reactions.
On March 3, 2021, the CTM-SCOG posted a Facebook video showing the construction of a huge I❤️AR SJDM sign along Barangay Kaypian in SJDM.
Several netizens, including residents, are dismayed with the project and are proposing to stick with I❤️SJDM (I Love SJDM) instead of I❤️AR SJDM (I Love AR SJDM). Many suggest following the I❤️DRT (I Love DRT) sign in Doña Remedios Trinidad (DRT), which is quite popular without political color.
With the adverse effect of the COVID-19 pandemic in the country, every centavo counts, especially for government projects.
In 2011, the late Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago, filed Senate Bill 54, or the Anti-Signage of Public Works Bill or the “anti-epal” measure. The said bill prohibits the placement of a public official’s name or image on a signage of a public works project, be it proposed, existing, or ongoing maintenance and rehabilitation. In 2017, Senator Manny Pacquiao filed his own version of the measure and provided for a penalty of P1 million and jail time against violators.
In 2016, former Senator Francis Escudero filed Senate Bill 776 prohibiting the naming of government projects after elected or appointed officials or after personalities that may be associated with them. However, up to this day, these bills haven’t been enacted into laws.
The Anti-Epal Memorandum Circular of DILG (MC 2010-101) is still in effect today. This circular memo was introduced by the late Secretary Jessie Robredo, which states, “Banning Names or Initials and/or Images or Pictures of Government Officials in Billboards & Signages of Government Programs, Projects & Properties.”