Biazon berates transport officials: ‘Be sensitive when people feel there is a crisis’

Mara Cepeda

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Biazon berates transport officials: ‘Be sensitive when people feel there is a crisis’

Lito Borras

Muntinlupa Representative Ruffy Biazon laments the denial of a mass transportation crisis in Metro Manila, when the plight of the daily commuter shows otherwise

MANILA, Philippines – Muntinlupa Representative Ruffy Biazon could not help but show his disappointment after a Department of Transportation (DOTr) official refused to say there is an ongoing mass transportation crisis in Metro Manila. 

“My piece of advice that I could give with the agencies involved: Buksan naman natin ‘yong sensitivity natin sa mga tao please (Be more sensitive to the people please). That’s part of [our job] as government,” Biazon told DOTr Undersecretary for Railways Timothy Batan during an emergency meeting of the House committee on transportation on Wednesday, October 9. (WATCH: LIVE: House hearing on LRT2 Santolan station incident)

“Hindi gagana yong naglilista tayo ng napakahabang listahan ng mga ginagawa natin if we don’t make people feel that we have empathy for [them]. Kasi sa totoo lang, your reaction, there is a feeling of government denying that there is a crisis,” added Biazon.

(Giving out a long list of things you have done wont work if we dont make people feel that we have empathy for them. Because honestly, based on your reaction, there is a feeling of government denying that there is a crisis.)

The congressman lamented why the government is “splitting hairs” over the definition of the word “crisis” when commuters have obviously been struggling to find a ride following the suspended operations of 3 Light Rail Transit 2 (LRT2) stations and the ongoing repair of the South Luzon Expressway. 

“Sasabihin niyo wala namang transportation crisis kasi nandiyan naman yong mga UV [Express vehicles], may mga sasakyan naman. Makakarating naman yong mga tao sa pupuntahan nila. (Youre going to say there is no transportation crisis because the UV vehicles and cars are still there. People are still able to go to their destination.) But imagine: the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) had to deploy their units…just for [the people] to go 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?” asked Biazon.

Yong nararamdaman ng tao crisis eh! When we see people going to LRT2 at 6 am, kita mo naka-press sila lahat doon sa nakasarado pang gate, it all has the appearance and feeling of a crisis. But we say hindi, walang transportation crisis kasi mayroon namang mga sasakyan nandiyan pa,” he added.

(People feel there is a crisis! When we see people going to the LRT2 at 6 am and you can see they’re pressed onto the still-closed gate, it has all the appearance and feeling of a crisis. But we say no, there’s no transportation crisis because there are still vehicles out there.)

It was a swipe against Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo, who said the day before the House hearing that there is no mass transport crisis because commuters are still able to reach their destinations anyway. 

DOTr’s Batan took on the same tone on Wednesday, acknowledging the difficulty commuters have to endure every day but refusing to admit there is a mass transport crisis.

“Siguro po kasi pag napag-uusapan itong mass transportation crisis nitong mga nakaraang araw, mayroon pong konteksto yong pinaggamitan po ng crisis at ito po yong konteksto na paralisado na, wala na pong masakyan. Talagang wala na pong alternatibo na masasakyan yong mga tao,” said Batan. 

(Perhaps when we talk about the issue of mass transportation crisis in the past days, there is the context of when we use the word crisis, and this is the context when there is paralysis already and there are no more vehicles to ride. The public no longer have alternatives to commute.)

“So yan po yong sinasabi natin na hindi naman po siguro ganoyong condition. But that is not to say po na hindi napakalaki ng problema,” added the DOTr chief.

(Thats what we mean when we say perhaps thats not the condition yet. But that is not to say the problem is not huge.)

‘Basic fact: People feel there is a crisis’

This was not enough for Biazon, who did not mince words while advising transport officials to be more sensitive and have empathy for the commuters’ plight. 

“The basic fact here is that people feel that there is a crisis. And part of the role of government is to make people feel better. Ano ba ‘yong sinabi doon sa Ambisyon 2040? Maginhawang buhay. Eh ‘yong nagko-commute ngayon, bumibiyahe ngayon, tingin ba natin gumiginhawa ang buhay nila? Hindi! (What does Ambisyon 2040 say? A comfortable life. Do those commuting now have a comfortable life? No!)” said Biazon.

House transportation panel chair Edgar Mary Sarmiento also slammed the sad state of the country’s public transportation system.

“I am a little bit emotional because I can see the suffering of our constituents. A never ending suffering, and I wonder why, despite a P4.1-trillion budget [in 2020] duly passed by this House, we cannot even have the decency of a mass public transportation system,” said the Samar 1st District representative.  

Parts of the LRT2 route are currently non-operational after lightning-induced fires hit the carriageway between the Katipunan and Anonas stations. 

Government agencies including the PCG, the Light Rail Transit Authority, and the Metro Manila Development Authority have deployed extra public utility vehicles on the route to aid commuters.  

Motocycle-for-hire service provider Angkas also provided free rides to and from the Santolan to Recto stations of LRT2. – Rappler.com

Read other stories from the October 9 House hearing:

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Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda specializes in stories about politics and local governance. She covers the Office of the Vice President, the Senate, and the Philippine opposition. She is a 2021 fellow of the Asia Journalism Fellowship and the Reham al-Farra Memorial Journalism Fellowship of the UN. Got tips? Email her at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or tweet @maracepeda.