Groups call for sincerity as Panelo agrees to commuting ‘challenge’
MANILA, Philippines — “No tricks,” groups urged Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo after he accepted their challenge to take public transportation to work at Malacañang Palace.
Panelo accepted the challenge after numerous groups urged him to experience their plight after he said that there is no transportation crisis despite heavy traffic and service disruptions on the metro’s train lines.
“Since Panelo accepted the challenge, we should actually see him ride the jeepney and the train,” Kilusang Mayo Uno Secretary General Jerome Adonis said in a statement sent to Philstar.com.
Adonis outlined a number of possible scenarios resulting from Panelo’s acceptance of the challenge, namely that he could still downplay the conditions he experienced, cheat the challenge somehow, or be challenged anew.
“Sasamahan siya ni Adonis, mga manggagawa [a]t estudyante. Pero No Tricks,” KMU said.
(Adonis, workers and students will be with him, but there should be no tricks)
Fisherfolk federation Pamalakaya and Anakpawis party-list reacted similarly to Panelo’s statement, saying that he could easily find a way around it.
“Normal lang kasi kay Panelo baligtarin ang mga sinasabi niya, o sa pagkakataong ito maaari siyang biglang umatras, magpapalusot na lang ng kung anu-anong dahilan, gaya ng security o kung ano pa,” Pamalakaya National Chairperson Fernando Hicap, a former Anakpawis party-list representative, said in a press release.
(It’s normal for Panelo to go back on his words or in this case he can suddenly take it back or think of some kind of loophole, like security or whatever else.)
Panelo should do it more often
Activist groups all called for sincerity in Panelo’s undertaking, saying that his experience should genuinely mirror that of the everyday commuter.
“If his thesis is that there is no mass transportation crisis, he should do it at least a month and only spend as much as minimum wage earners, as this adds to the stress in commuting, especially when they only eat at the cheapest play possible for the day,” former Rep. Ariel Casilao (Anakpawis party-list) meanwhile said.
“Umaasa talaga kaming ituloy niya, kasi kung sinsero niyang gagawin ito, pasisinungalingan nito ang kanyang pahayag na walang mass transport crisis,” Hicap said.
(We’re really hoping he continues it, because if he sincerely does this, it falsifies his claim that there is no mass transport crisis.)
Casilao shared sentiments with this, saying that “[i]f [Panelo] is stubborn enough to take the challenge only to debunk the grievances of the Filipino commuters, he would be facing an avalance of criticism. His only graceful way of ending this is the sincere way.”
Panelo insisted that he does understand the struggles of commuters while still maintaining that the condition only involved a degree of traffic instead of a full-scale crisis. He urged commuters to simply leave their homes earlier if they wanted to reach their destinations early.
Transport groups on September 30 took part in a nationwide transport strike, which Metropolitan Manila Development Authority spokesperson Celine Pialago called unsuccessful.
Activist youth group Anakbayan earlier set a number of “ground rules” for the Presidential Spokesperson, demanding he commute for a whole week rather than just one day. Otherwise, the challenge would be reduced to “mere performance.”
“The transport crisis is a serious problem that millions of Filipinos in Metro Manila and other places in the country suffer everyday,” Bayan, Anakbayan, and KMU said in a joint statement.
“It is borne out of decades of ineptitude of government, but also policies that cater more to local and foreign big business interests than to genuine public service.”
‘402,000 cars on EDSA daily’
Figures from the MMDA showed that in 2018, the EDSA highway carried 402,000 vehicles everyday on average, exceeding far beyond its listed carrying capacity of 288,000 vehicles. Statistics from the Japan International Cooperation Agency released that same year said that traffic congestion now costs the Philippines P3.5 billion in “lost opportunities” each day.
Casilao in his statement also mentioned a 2017 study by the Boston Consulting Group commissioned by ride-sharing app Uber that showed Metro Manila “was third with worst traffic in Southeast Asia. Motorists and commuters are wasting time in traffic by an average of more than an hour.”
He also mentioned a survey by Komyut, a group belonging to the Move Move Move coalition of transport and commuter organizations, that revealed that “commuters spend around 2 hours going to their work, for a total of 4 hours daily. Their waiting time is from 22 to 40 minutes and maximum number of transfer is 5.”
“This is the ultimate challenge that we dare the Duterte regime to face,” the groups said.