OCTOBER 10, 2019 – After drawing flak for his “no transport crisis” remark, Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo on Wednesday vowed to take public transportation to his Malacañang office on Friday.
He was responding to challenges hurled by progressive groups Anakbayan, Kilusang Mayo Uno, and Bayan to experience the “horrible daily commute.”
“The challenge to commute is accepted. This coming Friday, I’ll take the Jeepney and the LRT in going to work,” he told reporters in a message.
The Palace official faced public backlash for insisting there was no transportation crisis in Metro Manila amid the suspension of operations of the LRT 2 due to a fire that gutted its rectifiers last week.
“Ano bang ibig nilang sabihin sa transportation crisis? Ang nakikita ko lang traffic. May transportation naman ah, nakakasakay naman tayong lahat,” he said in a press briefing on Tuesday.
Panelo made the remark amid the breakdown of LRT-2 and the traffic jams experienced in major roads in Metro Manila.
Several enraged groups challenged the Palace spokesman to taste the daily suffering of commuters by taking mass transportation himself.
Commuters have been grappling with poor mass transport system especially in Metro Manila, where frequent breakdowns hound train lines LRT-1, LRT-2 and the Metro Rail Transit 3.
A 2017 report by the Japan International Cooperation Agency showed that traffic demand in Metro Manila were at 13.4-million trips daily.
The government has kicked off big-ticket infrastructure projects to address the traffic woes, while also attempting to replace antiquated jeepneys with fuel-efficient units.
NOT THE FIRST
Should Panelo make good with his promise, he would be the second Duterte spokesperson to accept the challenge and commute to work.
Former presidential mouthpiece Harry Roque took the MRT-3 in 2017 amid breakdowns in the train line, but was heavily criticized for doing it outside rush hours and in the company of body guards.
‘LET’S SET GROUND RULES’
In a statement, Anakbayan national spokesperson Alex Danday listed down ground rules for Panelo as he takes on the challenge.
“First of all, travel during early morning rush hour. Second, no special treatment no bodyguards to brush off crowd,” he said.
“Third, we are expecting the stint to be mere performance. To prevent this, the spokesperson must commute not only for a single day, but for a whole week. The youth and workers will accompany you,” he added.
The Duterte administration is scrambling to address the worsening traffic situation in Metro Manila as it plays a tug-of-war with the Senate in granting it emergency powers.
Transport Secretary Arthur Tugade, who also came on the record to back Panelo’s statement, was in the frontlines of pushing to grant Duterte the special traffic powers. (Winona Sadia/AAD)
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