PRESIDENTIAL Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo yesterday said he intends to ride a public jeepney and take the light rail transit when he reports for work in Malacanang today as he accepted the challenge hurled by militant groups and netizens that he try the difficulties of commuting daily.
“Lagi naman akong ready eh (I am always ready),” said Panelo, who earned the ire of the public when he declared last Tuesday that there is no transport crisis.
“Challenge accepted,” Panelo added, but declined to give details as to what time he would take public transport and the route that he would take.
He shrugged off the “rules” suggested by Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) secretary general Renato Reyes, who said Panelo should do away with security escorts, bodyguards, special treatments, waiting cars and that Panelo should commute during rush hour. Reyes had offered to join Panelo in his commute to work.
“Walang mga rules-rules. Basta just watch. (No rules. Just watch). Tinanggap ko lang iyong hamon nila, but I’ll do it my way (I just accepted their challenge, but I’ll do it my way),” Panelo said.
Among the options available to Panelo is to take a jeep from his home – either in Marikina or in Quezon City – to the closes LRT line 2 (Purple Line) station like Cubao station or Gilmore station and alight either at Pureza station where he can take a jeep going to Mendiola then walk towards Malacanang or at Legarda station where he can take two jeep rides before he arrives in Malacanang. He can also ride a pedicab up to Malacanang.
“You’ll just hear about it and see it,” Panelo said, opting to keep the time and route a secret.
Panelo said he is not taking any journalists with him, leaving it to members of media if they would attempt to cover his commute.
He said he does not want to cause any spectacle, adding he is not concerned about his security nor has he travelled with any security men in tow.
Netizens had mixed reactions to Panelo’s acceptance of the challenge, with some saying he should try commuting for a week or up to a month or even until the end of President Duterte’s term. Others said he should do it during rush hour, adding he should not accept any special treatments or accept courtesies accorded senior citizens.
Panelo believes he does not need to commute to experience what the daily commuters feel “pero para lang pagbigyan sila, o sige gawin natin (but just to give into to their call, let’s do it).
“Whether you’re a motorist, you’re a commuter, you suffer the same. Wala namang pagbabago iyon, ganoon din iyon (Whether you’re a motorist, you’re a commuter, you suffer the same. There is no change to that, it’s the same),” he said adding that everyone is affected by the traffic problem.
Panelo reiterated that what he said was that here is no mass transport crisis.
‘SHOW SOME EMPATHY’
Muntinlupa Rep. Ruffy Biazon took transportation officials to task for denying that there is a mass transport crisis, saying they have to at least show some empathy to the suffering public.
“What the people are experiencing is a crisis! When we see people going to LRT2 at 6 a.m., you’ll see them cramped and pressed against the still closed gate, it all has the appearance and feeling of a crisis but we say no, there’s no transportation crisis because there are still other modes of transportation,” Biazon told Undersecretary for Railways Timothy Batan during the hearing of the House committee on transportation last Wednesday.
Batan refused to call the situation a crisis, saying it will only be classified as one “once transportation has been totally paralyzed and there are no alternative modes of transportation.”
Biazon said the long list of measures that have been undertaken to ease the traffic problem in Metro Manila is nothing if “we don’t make people feel that we have empathy for them.”
“Frankly, your reaction, there is a feeling of government denying that there is a crisis,” said the administration lawmaker, who had served as customs commissioner under the Aquino administration.
Biazon said that while the government denies that there is now a mass transport crisis, the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) had to deploy its units just to bring the people to work.
“We had to issue special permits for transportation. We had to get Angkas to step in and give free rides! Isn’t that a definition of a crisis?” he asked.
Even the chair of the transportation panel, Samar Rep. Edgar Mary Sarmiento had to apologize to commuters for their daily suffering, saying it’s a shame that the government cannot even provide the people with a decent public transportation system despite the passage of the annual national budget worth trillions of pesos.
The committee meeting was called because of the suspension of the operation of the Light Rail Transit 2 (LRT2) and the ongoing repair of the South Luzon Expressway (SLEX) which closed certain portions of its northbound outermost lane.
The LRT 2’s Santolan to Anonas station will be closed for about nine months to undergo rehabilitation.
LRT 2 operations shut down on Thursday last week after its rectifier-transformer, located between the Katipunan and Anonas stations, tripped and caught fire.
Caloocan City Rep. Edgar Erice warned the leadership of Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) and Department of Transportation (DoTR) that Metro Manila will experience the worst traffic situation ever, most particularly in EDSA starting last week of November, because of the Holiday season and the upcoming South East Asian (SEA) Games.
Citing MMDA estimates, Erice said the vehicular traffic will increase by 20 percent and will transform EDSA into a virtual parking space.
He reiterated his proposal to transform EDSA into a mass transport highway from 6 to 9 a.m. and 6 to 9 p.m., banning private vehicles from during the said period.
“Only buses and PUV’s shall be allowed to use EDSA. This will allow ordinary commuters to be prioritized to be transported to their place of work and back home,” said Erice. “This is the only way that we can help the majority of Metro Manila residents this Christmas season.” – With Wendell Vigilia