This time, Palace Spokesperson Salvador Panelo did not accept a commuter’s group challenge to take public transportation for 6 months, saying that it is not necessary to see the struggles of commuters.
“That doesn’t matter. I only gave in to shove it in their faces that it’s not true that we have not experienced commuting using public transport,” he said during an interview at Malacañang.
As per the commuter group Kongreso ng Mananakay, a day of commuting is not enough for Panelo to know the real problem. Therefore, they have dared him to commute for six months.
Meanwhile, Panelo pointed out that there’s no need for public officials to commute just to witness how the riding public suffers.
“Even if you don’t ride one, you will still see it every day, when you see queues at jeepney or bus stands. You will see them struggling to hail a ride, especially during rush hour,” Panelo said.
However, he added that accepting another challenge is not necessary.
On the other hand, Iligan City Rep. Frederick Siao believes that public officials, especially those with high-ranking posts, must show “empathy” to the commuters.
“Kailangan natin maranasan, especially high-ranking officials, kung paano pumila, makipagsiksikan gaya ng ordinaryong mamamayan,” he said.
Siao also said public officials could create more relevant solutions to transport crisis if they would experience it firsthand.
Earlier, the congressman revealed that his plans on proposing a bill that will require public officials, government executives particularly, to commute at least once a week to help lessen traffic in Metro Manila.
For Panelo, however, commuting once a week is not a problem as long as it is to sympathize with the commuters. But if its purpose is to let officials experience it, then there’s no need for them to do it.
Public officials also experienced struggles of commuting
In addition, the spokesperson asserted that officials like him have also experienced the difficulties of riding public utility vehicles (PUVs).
“We all went through that. We experienced fighting to ride a jeepney, even the bus,” Panelo said, mentioning Cabinet officials including Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade and Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III.
Alongside this, Panelo also wanted critics to propose solutions to this crisis instead of circulating further commuting challenges.
“Like [Vice President] Leni [Robredo]. Stop with the criticism. She says, ‘Admit that there’s a crisis.’ I already said there’s a traffic crisis,” he said.
Robredo countered, through her spokesperson Barry Gutierrez, that she already gave advice, not merely on solving the problem in traffic, but also in other concerns.
“The question is, after more than three years in office, why is it only now that the government is looking for solutions to the traffic problem, which they had promised would be easily solved then?” Gutierrez told reporters in a statement.