Poe-Tugade spat escalates: 'Underperforming' vs 'full of herself'

It's turned into a verbal joust.

Two days after Senator Grace Poe claimed that the Department of Transportation (DOTr) is using the lack of emergency powers as an excuse for failing to do its job, she added insult to injury by aiming at its chief, who himself did not mince words in retaliation.

In an ABS-CBN News Channel interview on Thursday, September 12, Poe claimed that she was "not there to make people look bad" right after saying that transport chief Arthur Tugade's performance was not up to standard.

She earlier lambasted the transport agency for its shortcomings, such as not being able to operate a single one of the 48 Dalian trains until now.

She stood pat on the DOTr's role in solving the traffic problem: that even if the agency does not handle the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority and the Philippine National Police's Highway Patrol Group, it still controls regulatory bodies such as the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board.

"It's really [about] leadership by determination and by follow-up and focus, which [Finance Secretary Carlos] Dominguez apparently had," Poe said, echoing her sentiments from the Senate hearing on the provincial bus ban last Tuesday, September 10.

Poe had compared Tugade to Dominguez, saying the transport chief was not as active in lobbying for emergency powers as the finance secretary was in pushing for the passage of the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion law.

Tugade, however, didn't take Poe's criticism sitting down.

'Bilib sa sarili'

"Sus, masyadong bilib sa sarili. Pati ba naman posisyon ko pinakikialaman niya? (She's so full of herself. She'll go so low as to stick her nose in my position?) I serve only at the pleasure of the President. Not subject to the whims, caprice, and theatrics of misguided politicians," said Tugade's scathing reply, as relayed by DOTr Assistant Secretary Goddes Libiran.

In fact, the DOTr released a few statements with regard to Poe's remarks, first saying that traffic management does not fall under the DOTr's mandate – even if Tugade would be appointed traffic czar if emergency powers were granted.

The DOTr then slammed Poe's claim that it is not doing its job, listing projects under the Duterte administration. These include airports and commercial ports, as well as railways under construction.

"Madam Senator, hindi ho ugali ni Secretary Tugade ang matulog sa pansitan. Kaya nga ho nagpapatupad ang kagawaran ng 24/7 construction at nagpapairal ng partial operability timelines dahil mismo sa kagustuhan niyang makapaghatid agad ng serbisyo publiko sa transportasyon sa mga Pilipino....'Yan po ang aming kalihim. Trabaho, gawa, at hindi puro salita," said the DOTr.

(Madam Senator, Secretary Tugade is not in the habit of slacking off. That's why the department commits to 24/7 construction and implements partial operability timelines because the Secretary wants to provide public transportation services to Filipinos immediately. That's our secretary: he works hard, he takes action, he isn't all talk.)

In another statement, the DOTr reiterated that Tugade "will not allow himself to be used as 'props' for political theatrics."

Will that be the end of it? – Rappler.com 

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.

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