Panelo ‘sorely missed the point’ of commute challenge, say militant groups

Loreben Tuquero
Panelo ‘sorely missed the point’ of commute challenge, say militant groups

'Kung walang krisis sa transportasyon, malapit na dapat siya sa Baguio sa ganoong katagal na biyahe,' Bayan Muna Representative Carlos Zarate says after Panelo insisted that there is no transportation crisis, even after a nearly 4-hour trip to work using public transportation

MANILA, Philippines – Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo “sorely missed the point” of his commute challenge on Friday, October 11, since he insisted that there was no transportation crisis in the country even if it took him nearly 4 hours to reach his office using public transportation.

This was the assessment of House Deputy Minority Leader Carlos Isagani Zarate after Panelo took the commute challenge made by militant groups, including the lawmaker’s Bayan Muna party.

Kung walang krisis sa transportasyon, malapit na dapat siya sa Baguio sa ganoong katagal na biyahe. Araw-araw itong ginagawa ng mga karaniwang tao at napakaraming oras at pagod nila ang nasasayang,” Zarate said in a statement. (READ: Panelo didn’t experience real commuter struggle, netizens say)

(If there was no transportation crisis, he would have been near Baguio City considering the time spent on that trip. Ordinary people go through this every day and so much of their time and effort go to waste.)

Zarate reiterated that the purpose of the challenge  was for Panelo and other government officials to see the extent of the hardship commuters have to go through regularly, so that they could come up with solutions the improve the country’s mass transportation system.

Bayan Muna Secretary General Renato Reyes Jr, for his part, said in a tweet addressed to Panelo: “Halos 4 na oras na biyahe, tapos 4 na palit ng jeep, may motorcycle pa. Hindi pa nga ba crisis ‘yun, Sec? Thank you for proving our point, kahit matagal nang alam ‘yan ng karamihan.”

(Nearly 4 hours on the road, then 4 jeepney transfers, and a motorcyle too. Isn’t that a crisis, Sec? Thank you for proving our point, even if the majority of Filipinos have known that for a long time.)

‘Traffic crisis’

Panelo said he was “okay” with his 4-hour journey that began before daybreak and involved multiple jeepney rides and a motorbike ride from a passing Manila City Hall employee. 

Huwag sana itong maliitin ni Secretary Panelo at tumulong na agad na magawan ng paraan para mapagaan ang problema ng mga commuters (I hope Secretary Panelo does not belittle this and that he would immediate find a way to ease the burden of our commuters),” Zarate said.

During the press briefing after his commute, Panelo said that Metro Manila obviously reeled from a “traffic crisis” but not a transportation crisis, since there was  no complete “paralysis” on the roads and people could still get on public transportation.

After taking 4 jeepney rides that took him from New Manila to Quezon City, to Marikina, back to Quezon City, and then Manila, Panelo came to the conclusion the traffic crisis was caused by the volume of cars plying the roads, the large number of traffic violations, and inefficient traffic management, among other already known factors.

The spokesman said he only accepted the challenge to prove militant groups wrong in thinking that people in power were not capable of commuting. He said one need not be a commuter to understand their plight. (READ: ‘Hindi lang siya ang pasahero dito’: Panelo challenge tests commuters’ patience)

Kahit nasa kotse ‘yan nakikita mo ‘yan eh. You don’t have to go through that ordeal. Alam na natin ‘yan eh. I see them every day (Even if you’re in a car you can see it. You don’t have to go through that ordeal. We all know it. I see them every day),” Panelo said.

‘Photo opp’

Anakbayan national spokesperson Alex Danday said Panelo had turned their commute challenge into a mere “photo opportunity” when it should have given the Palace official a chance to see what ordinary people have to endure every day to survive, and also the state of Metro Manila’s public transportation system.

Hindi deserve ng mga estudyante at manggagawang komyuter ‘yung ganitong klaseng transport system nung bansa natin (Students and workers who commute do not deserve this kind of transport system),” Danday said.

Anakbayan said in a social media that even Panelo “got to work late” at 8:46 am – past the 8 am opening of government office hours – even if he took his own advice to leave early to get to work on time. He began his commute at 5:15 am on Friday.

Panelo, late na sa trabaho! Pahiya ka ngayon, ano (Panelo’s late for work! You’re ashamed now, aren’t you)?” Anakbayan said.

Panelo said that he intentionally went around Metro Manila to keep the media off his back. He also said that regular office hours do not apply to him as a Cabinet secretary, since he worked “24 hours a day.”

During a Palace briefing, Panelo was asked if he had already forwarded any recommendations to solve the traffic problem, based on his personal experience. He said  he didn’t have to since transportation officials were already working on it. 

“‘Yung problema sa traffic, alam na nila Secretary Tugade ‘yan eh. Alam na rin ng MMDA. Kaya nga they’re doing something about it. We don’t even have to tell them what’s wrong, they know what is wrong,” he said.

(With regard to traffic problems, [Department of Transporation] Secretary Arthur Tugade is already aware of them. The Metropolitan Manila Depevemopment Authority is already aware of them. That’s why we’re doing something about it. We don’t even have to tell them what’s wrong, they know what is wrong.)

Panelo reiterated that the state of commuting right now could have been mitigated had Congress granted emergency powers to President Rodrigo Duterte

But Zarate said the government should not use Panelo’s commute challenge as an opportunity to revisit the idea of emergency powers, which Duterte himself had already dropped–

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Loreben Tuquero

Loreben Tuquero is a researcher-writer for Rappler. Before transferring to Rappler's Research team, she covered transportation, Quezon City, and the Department of the Interior and Local Government as a reporter. She graduated with a communication degree from the Ateneo de Manila University.