Opposition Senator Leila M. De Lima has demanded for government accountability over the worsening transportation problem gripping the country, especially in Metro Manila, which causes thousands of Filipino commuters to struggle in their daily commute.
De Lima, a social justice and human rights champion, maintained that it is the government’s duty to enable the riding public to travel to and from their destinations using public transport efficiently and with dignity.
“Spokesperson Salvador Panelo is obviously out of touch with the dismal state of mass transportation in the country, particularly in Metro Manila. He has the gall to say there is no transportation crisis,” she said in her recent Dispatch from Crame No. 623.
“What I see here is an accountability crisis, where this administration refuses to take responsibility over the deteriorating state of mobility in Metro Manila,” she added.
After drawing flak for his statement denying a mass transport crisis hounding Manila, activist groups challenged Panelo to commute to Malacañang Palace and experience for himself the hardship of commuting every day, which he acquiesced.
Last Oct. 11, Panelo took on the “commute challenge” by taking at least four jeepney rides and a motorbike ride from his child’s house in New Manila Quezon City to Malacañang. His entire commute reportedly took nearly four hours.
Despite the arduous commute, Panelo stood pat on his claim that there is no transport crisis in Metro Manila even as he praised Filipinos for their “creativity” in handling the traffic situation.
The lady Senator from Bicol lamented the Duterte administration’s effort to always downplay the suffering of the Filipino people – from its trademark human rights violations to the plight of the farmers, and now the commuting public.
“The end-goal of providing mass transportation by the state is for the public to be able to move from and to places efficiently and with dignity. But what we have instead is our railway infrastructure getting worse, with the offloading of passengers who would be crammed into an already overloaded train,” she said.
“And with the vehicular pile-up at the SLEX, and other major roads and the now-limited operation of the LRT 2, the public is also forced to make major adjustments to departure, leaving at ungodly hours just to get to their destinations,” she added.
De Lima, who chairs the Senate Committee on Social Justice, Welfare, and Rural Development, said she sees nothing dignifying, much less humane, with the major adjustments that Filipinos are forced to do in their daily commute.
“Tell me, Mr. Panelo, is there anything humane with leaving the house at 3:00 in the morning just to arrive on time at work? Is there anything dignifying with commuters cramming themselves inside trains with barely enough room to breathe just so they won’t receive salary deductions for tardiness?” she asked.
“Nakarating ka nga pero nalamog na ang dignidad dahil lamang sa pangangailangan mamuhay nang disente,” she added.