CHIEF Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo yesterday dared critics and detractors of the Duterte administration to come up with solutions or suggestions on how best to address the traffic situation in Metro Manila instead of merely issuing negative statements on the government’s mass transportation program.
Panelo, also the concurrent presidential spokesman, took a potshot at Vice President Leni Robredo and said her criticisms, along with the opposition’s endless negative comments, will not help solve the traffic problem.
“Hindi makakatulong iyan. Magbigay na lang kasi kayo ng proposal para makatulong kayo sa pamahalaan. Iyon ang solusyon doon (It will not help. Just submit a proposal to help government. That is the solution there),” Panelo said in a briefing in Malacañang.
He was reacting to Robredo’s weekend statement chiding him for downplaying the traffic situation when he said that there was no mass transport crisis.
Panelo stood by his position and reiterated that a mass transport crisis means a paralysis of the mass transportation system, which is not the case in the country.
What the metropolis is dealing with, he said, was a traffic crisis.
Panelo took the press briefing as an opportunity to apologize to commuters who might have been inconvenienced when he engaged his critics and accepted the “Commute Challenge.”
He said he had personally kept the details of his planned commute to avoid media coverage and so as not to cause a spectacle.
He joked that it was the media that caught up with him and managed to follow him that caused the inconvenience on the commuters.
Panelo said he took up the challenge because he wanted to prove wrong criticisms that Malacañang was not aware of the traffic and mass transportation problems experienced by commuters on a daily basis.
Panelo on Friday rode three public jeepneys from Marikina City and even hitched a ride from a motorcycle-riding commuter to get to his office on time. He arrived in the Palace compound some 40 minutes late.
Iligan Rep. Frederick Siao said he intends to file the proposed Public Servant Commuting Via Public Transport Act which would require government officials to ride a public transport at least once a week.
Gabriela party-list Rep. Arlene Brosas welcomed Siao’s call to enjoin lawmakers to commute to work every Monday, adding that President Duterte should also be made to commute to personally experience the difficult life of commuters.
“We want congressmen and senators and even the President to personally experience the hardship of commuters, the ordinary people,” Brosas said.
At the same time, Brosas said lawmakers and top government officials like Cabinet secretaries should also be made to receive minimum wage to truly understand the plight of ordinary workers.
“It would be better if senators and congressmen will be made to receive minimum wage so they’ll experience how to budget their measly salaries, setting aside money for transportation, food because that’s what public officials should do. How can we be grounded if we don’t even experience taking public transportation?” she told reporters.
Congressmen and senators receive a monthly salary of P295,191 or Salary Grade 31, excluding transportation and communication allowances, while minimum wage earners receive P16,110 or P537 a day without a day-off.
As this developed, Panelo acknowledged the observations of urban planner Felino “Jun” Palafox Jr. that insufficient infrastructure contributed to the traffic situation now.
Palafox, in a television interview, also said too much politics and the lack of continuity added to the traffic in Metro Manila.
Panelo said the incumbent government is not blaming past administrations but noted there had been some approved infrastructure projects during the Marcos presidency that were scrapped under the administration of the late president Corazon Aquino administration.
He said a similar thing happened during the Arroyo government where some infrastructure programs had been approved which was scrapped during the Benigno Aquino III administration.
“That’s why we are now like this. We are not blaming anyone. We are just relaying to the public who deep the problem is, how long the neglect had been, the neglect that resulted in a wider traffic problem,” he said.
He added that the government merely wants to emphasize that it is doing something to address the traffic problem through the various infrastructure projects that it is undertaking like the Skyway and highway expansions, new bridges, highway linkages and subway system, among others. – With Wendell Vigilia