How can Metro Manila ever improve if Filipino politicians do not take public transport?

Metro Manila is a dump. And it is getting worse, not better. The city is being crushed under the weight of its own success as a magnet for domestic migrants looking for jobs the Philippines’ barren hinterlands cannot provide. But why is Metro Manila, the Philippines’ premiere economic and cultural centre, not improving? Not only is it not improving, it is worsening even!

The answer is quite simple. Metro Manila’s leaders do not have skin in the game. Nowhere is this lack of real stake in the fortunes of this megalopolis more evident than in public transport. Specifically this:

Filipino politicians do not take public transport as a matter of routine.

Manila's paralysed road traffic costs billions in lost productivity every year.
Manila’s paralysed road traffic costs billions in lost productivity every year.
How then can Metro Manilans ever expect things to improve in their city if their leaders have no understanding at all of what the average Metro Manilan goes through everyday?

Hold that thought for a moment and consider this first. Filipino politicians are fond of grandstanding, specially in the lead up to election days. They take with them an entourage of publicists and photographers then make like they are directing traffic, hauling sacks of onions, or any activity that makes them look like they are “one of us”. Apparently many Filipinos buy that bullshit. Despite phalanxes of “activists” derisively calling these traditional campaign stunts “epal” (a Tagalog coloquial word for “grandstanding”), the practice remains deeply-entrenched in Filipino political cultural.

So here’s the thing. Rather than fight a losing battle against epal in Philippine politics, why not put it to good use. If Filipino polticians want to make epal, why not make them do it all the way. Here is what I propose Filipinos — Metro Manilans in particular — demand of their politicians:

Start taking public transport everyday for the next two years leading to the 2016 elections.

Any baboon can make like a traffic cop or a palengkero for the 15 minutes it takes to produce a campaign video. But if Filipino politicians want to demonstrate how serious they are about improving the lot of ordinary Filipinos who, as part of their day-to-day lives, suffer the results of decades of government mismanagement, they should show Filipinos that they can take personal accountability for the idiocy of the government they want to be officers of.

What better way to demonstrate that resolve to fix Metro Manila and, by extension, the rest of the country than by living like real Filipinos for a duration that actually hurts? Indeed, a fat politician squeezing himself into an MRT or a jeepney will hurt — perhaps for the two years they will “sacrifice” to deserve the Filipino vote. Nonetheless, that “sacrifice” is really none such from the perspective of ordinary Filipinos who put up with the appalling conditions Metro Manila subjects them to everyday 365 days a year for much of their entire lives.

Filipinos deserve their current crop of no-results politicians because they habitually expect so little of them. It is only when Filipinos expect non-negotiably high standards of their leaders that the Philippines can be regarded as a country on its way to the top. We should stop satisfying ourselves with two-bit publicity stunts and demand real substance in our politicians.

It’s really not that hard.

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Post Author: benign0

benign0 is the Webmaster of GetRealPhilippines.com.

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59 Comments on "How can Metro Manila ever improve if Filipino politicians do not take public transport?"

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Jim DiGriz
Guest

Even though this is a very good idea, it will NEVER EVER happen. N E V E R! ZERO CHANCE!

Johnny Saint
Guest
Before Mar Roxas ran for public office, he served at the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI). At the time he was living in his family’s house in Cubao, Quezon City. His office was on Gil Puyat (Buendia) in Makati City. He would often make a big deal about how easy it was to get to work using the MRT — a fifteen minute commute when the shortest bus ride would take anywhere between thirty to forty-five minutes. Ironically, under Roxas’ watch, the DOTC presided over the massive deterioration of the MRT system, culminating in the derailment last Wednesday, 13… Read more »
Amir Al Bahr
Member

LOL at the use of the word retarded to refer to the failure of this administration.

joeld
Guest

That would be a real source of real savings, minimizing cost of transpo for our dear senators and congressmen, etc. Who knows how many millions/billions in annual budget can be saved if they commute daily. Not that they really come in for work daily.

But hey, he spent a night in a tent!!!! wohooo! I lab u Penoy!!!

oldbread
Guest

Why? There’s no reason for the upper class to do so.

It’s something that happens every where so I don’t really see this as an important issue.

To ease the traffic it might be better to decentralized the economy. When manila cannot support the population the people will move else where. Traffic will improve. Less powerful oligarchs will appear and balance the situation

Nikolai Go
Guest
Now, that’s another issue oldbread. Many of our politicians come from the so called “upper class”, and is often out of touch of their constituents reality, apart from having a mere theoretical concept of it. In democratic countries with a mature tradition of democracy, many members of government often come from the class the represent the electorate. If the society is composed mostly of middle class, then the government make-up is similar. Ang problema natin sa Pilipinas ay maling akala na “demokratiko” na tayo dahil nakakaboto (o nabibili) ang mga tao at mayroon daw kalayaang mamahayag (kund hindi man naimpluwensiya… Read more »
Kenneth
Guest
They do ride public transport but on their own advantage. They will ride public transport, but it is already scripted, they are treated as VIP rather than ordinary commuters. Foe example, the MRT will not be loaded to accompany the VIP, take some photos, and Done, you have sympathy of the idiotic society. “Wow, Nag MRT si (insert name here), napakadown to earth nya, nakikisama siya sa hirap na dinadanas natin” See? From the company I work with, an Oil Company, even if you’re hired for an executive or corporate position, you still need to learn and experience the way… Read more »
Naknak
Guest

“you still need to learn and experience the way of the trade”

Aside from commuting then, politicians should receive a minimum wage salary, buy goods in wet markets, cross pedestrian where vehicles are beating the red light, cross underpass, overpass or long footbridge without roof at noontime, walk on the dark sidewalk, eskinitas where there are no lamplights to hide holdapers, live in squatter’s area, collect garbage on the street using old dump trucks with usual jeans and shirt as uniform, sumugod sa ulan at baha…(sine) There’s so much they need to learn.

Dave
Guest
There have been cases in the UK of affluent members of parliament being encouraged/forced to take public transport by their PR people and to send their kids to public rather than private schools to set such an example. It really makes sense. When greater transparency revealed that many MPs were claiming unreasonable luxuries as expenses, there was even a ban on things like taking taxis before 11pm at night. It was a big outrage at the time, but since I moved to the Philippines and started reading this site, hearing that an MP built his garden shed using taxpayers’ money… Read more »
Jmac
Guest

Michael Bloomberg, the former mayor of New York city, one of the richest people in the United States and in the whole world with $33 billion of net worth, takes the subway to work like most regular folks.

The only people here in the Philippines who I have heard followed a similar habit, was a certain congressman who rode a bike to work everyday, and Jesse Robredo, former DILG secretary who also followed the same routine when he was mayor of Naga city. Such people however, are very rare here in the Philippines.

Johnny Saint
Guest
Riding the subway to work doesn’t mean Bloomberg hasn’t made any dubious policy decisions. He implemented a ban on certain sizes of sugary drinks as part of his health initiatives. Of course, the ban did not include SMALLER drink sizes nor did it prevent people from buying them. He also implemented a number of ‘nanny state’ policies such the first conditional cash transfer program in the history of the US. He replaced the public school board and assumed direct control of public education in New York City, and raised teachers’ salaries. However, recent studies have shown that New York City… Read more »
Jmac
Guest

Well I’m not making arguments about his policy decisions and overall legacy as mayor of New York, but the fact that he as a public official takes the mass transportation of the city he served as mayor in, makes sense in principle, and demonstrates that he is grounded to some extent.

If public officials in the Philippines applied even a bit of that kind of thinking, then perhaps they’d be better public servants.

Johnny Saint
Guest

That WAS the point you were trying to make, was it not? Public officials using public transport are more grounded. Therefore we expect them to make better policy decisions that reflect what their constituency needs. I submit that reality DOES NOT necessarily follow your premise. At best you can characterise the elected official as less aloof but that doesn’t demonstrate that he or she will do a better job. Worse, it comes off as a cynical publicity gimmick if the official proves to be no more effective than one who travels in a chauffeured vehicle.

Jmac
Guest

Note that I said ‘perhaps’ in my last sentence above, not definitely. That’s the keyword here. If they rode public transport, they’d be more grounded, and if they are more grounded they are LIKELY to be better public servants.

Jmac
Guest

Note that I used the ‘perhaps’ in my last sentence above. Maybe I should’ve used a different word.

Yes it doesn’t guarantee they’ll be better public servants, but if they rode public transportation they’ll be more grounded, and if they’re more grounded then maybe they’re LIKELY to be better public servants, meaning they’re LIKELY to make better policy decisions.

Johnny Saint
Guest

Again, as I said in the previous comment: Having more grounded public officials MAY result in better policy decisions, BUT, as your own example demonstrates, the real world has shown that your subway-riding politicians haven’t necessarily performed any better than the chauffeur-driven variety.

Jmac
Guest

There are no formal studies done to prove it, but I’d be willing to bet that politicians who ride the same public transportation as the rest of us, will make better policy decisions than the chaffeur-driven variety.

If I may ask you, which would you prefer to make decisions – a guy who has lived on ivory towers almost his whole life or a modest guy who has lived and breathed the same air as you do, and have more or less shared the same experiences that you have? Who would you likely trust and follow?

Johnny Saint
Guest
Jmac, I would prefer that you do not turn the discussion into an issue involving class warfare. That’s a separate matter altogether. As you say, there is no empirical evidence to prove that people who use public transport will be better public servants. That humans place greater trust in those who belong to the same social group, or seemingly have the character traits as the group one belongs to, has long been established by social scientists. These are basic group behaviours. They explain HOW a person can get elected to a position of leadership. They do not necessarily determine how… Read more »
Jmac
Guest
I made no such mention of anything referring to class. And I wasn’t necessarily referring to those of the same social group, but rather those who have shared or have similar experiences. Clearly it is no accident that people tend to trust those people with experience in the problems they are tackling than those without. Would you trust a lawyer over a doctor when handling surgery? Let’s take it further, would you trust a novice surgeon over a veteran surgeon when handling surgery? Or specifically, would you trust an internist over a neuroscientist when tackling medical problems related to the… Read more »
Moonlight Bomber
Guest

If I recall correctly, the congressman who rode a bike was Cong. Manuel “Way Kurat” Zamora.

Jmac
Guest

Yes that’s him. Thanks!

Narra
Guest
If we apply logic, we may conclude that Philippine politicians hate it when they are told what to do and correct them when they are wrong thus even if for them it’s the right thing to do they won’t do it. Why? Lesson # 1 – It’s not for the reasons the Filipinos demanded after they won their coveted seat that they run for office. Lesson # 2 – It’s also not for that reason that they got voted. Lesson # 3 – They are covered in their whole term by the “platforms” they presented during candidacy so no thinking… Read more »
Frank
Guest

They would probably ride public transit more if they weren’t at risk of getting shot. Then they’d shut down the public transit in response.

Robert Haighton
Guest
Benign0, I dont know any politician in western europe that takes public transport as a mode to commute. At best, one or two take their own private bike to go to parliament but thats because they live in the same city (The Hague). In my country as well, we are suffering from congestion and traffic jams. I guess, the main reason for that is that we all go to work at the same time. To solve it, partly, is to have flexible (starting) hours or being able to work at home. However, this wont work for those who work in… Read more »
Felipe
Guest

US VP Joe Biden used to take trains every working day to go to his office, and so are several other US politicians. Of course, moving to his VP residence, he need not do it, at least, for awhile.

Jim DiGriz
Guest

Robert, Europe is a damn big place. Maybe you per say don’t know any politicians who take public transport. But there are plenty.

DingalingaDong
Guest

”Its more fun in the Philippines” main target audience are not prospective tourists. It’s added sugar to the mass delusion, which the masa are so addicted to.

Hyden Toro
Guest
These Politicians cannot do what you are telling them to do…they are used to the luxuries of life: cars, drivers, servants, psychophants, etc…who cater to all their needs. It will Kill them; if they do, what we ordinary people do… Metro Manila needs to be DECONGESTED. This begins with the Squatters…who contribute mostly to this congestion. Industries and commercial sites must be DISPERSED TO NEARBY OR to other Provinces. There is no other way to move a huge amount of people than by Commuter Train. Other countries, like Japan, China, other European countries, have the MAGNETIC LEVITATION Commuter trains. This… Read more »
DingalingaDong
Guest

da Pilippinas is da best!

Felipe
Guest

I understand that former Pres. Ferdinand Marcos had already been working on developing areas away from Metro-Manila precisely for this purpose–i.e. to draw people away from MM and prevent this from happening.

Sadly, Filipinos focused more on political personalities and less on their projects, that’s why this effort was never realized. Then, there is this very Pinoy tendency to procrastinate & wait until the problem becomes a serious crisis before acting on it (if at all). Pinoy-style management is lazy and not pro-active.

Johnny Saint
Guest
Let’s not reimagine history with false memories and lies. Formulating policy “to draw people away from MM and prevent this from happening” is the worst reason for economic development. Progress AND its attendant benefits occurs BECAUSE economic activity is allowed to proceed unencumbered and unrestricted by external forces. The only thing the Marcos administration accomplished in twenty-five years of managing the Philippine economy was to transform the country into ‘the sick man of Asia’ and turned the population into a nation of migrant workers. — “Sadly, Filipinos focused more on political personalities and less on their projects, that’s why this… Read more »
Hyden Toro
Guest

Another YellowTard in this website with disinformation mission…Aquino’s tactic…

Johnny Saint
Guest

Excuse me?

Johnny Saint
Guest
For clarity, kindly read the comment by Felipe and this response again: Let’s not reimagine history with false memories and lies. Formulating policy “to draw people away from MM and prevent this from happening” is the worst reason for economic development. Progress AND its attendant benefits occurs BECAUSE economic activity is allowed to proceed unencumbered and unrestricted by external forces. The only thing the Marcos administration accomplished in twenty-five years of managing the Philippine economy was to transform the country into ‘the sick man of Asia’ and turned the population into a nation of migrant workers. — “Sadly, Filipinos focused… Read more »
Jim DiGriz
Guest

Come on now, give it a rest with the Marcos boogeyman shit already.

Felipe made a good point with what he said. Marcos had foresight, that is for sure.

Johnny Saint
Guest
What “Marcos boogeyman shit?” Are we now denying actual documented history in favour of a more convenient narrative? Lying for the sake of winning an argument? Sounds like something Penoy and company would do. Or Ferdinand Marcos. Whatever grand plans Marcos had — from building a national government centre in Quezon City to land reform to energy development to ASEAN — it is undeniable that they amount to little in the face of his legacy to the Philippines and its net effect on the Filipino people. As it has often been asked on various GRP posts: What, if any, were… Read more »
VLAD
Guest
Do not be confused: Ferdinand Marcos was a CRIMINAL SCUMBAG.There is no doubt about it.He and his completely delusional conniving wife stole every bit of wealth the country produced for close to 20 years.This included a few wealthy USA corporations as well. PLDT is Marcos-money owned, as many other thing in the country are.He was forced into exile but that was only till the heat died down and then he came back to be united with the part of the loot he could not get away with when he was exiled.The part of the looting that was not already funneled… Read more »
Aeta
Guest

@Felipe. Even if Marcos stole billions from the Philippines–more than any single presidents, and their administration, before and after him–he also spent a considerable portion of that money to rebuild and maintain the country’s infrastructure and take care of his people.

If you add up all the money and wealth that has been pilferred away, through graft and corruption since Marcos’ ousting in 1986 by our politicians and foreign companies doing businesss in the Philippines–and will continue to be pilferred away in the future–what Marcos stole will be a mere ‘chump change.’

Jmac
Guest
This article makes sense in that if Filipino politicians took public transportation, if only as a matter of principle, it will show that they are somehow grounded and in touch with ordinary people’s daily nightmarish experiences taking public transportation and not too comfortably sheltered from them. Perhaps in this way, they’ll be able to make better and more practical solutions to Metro Manila’s perpetual problems. It will show that they have a healthy level of appreciation for what a typical daily commuter in Metro Manila goes through everyday because they experience it themselves. Ergo, they should spend less time in… Read more »
brianitus
Guest
“Filipinos deserve their current crop of no-results politicians because they habitually expect so little of them. It is only when Filipinos expect non-negotiably high standards of their leaders that the Philippines can be regarded as a country on its way to the top. We should stop satisfying ourselves with two-bit publicity stunts and demand real substance in our politicians.” That summed it up nicely. I hope Mar Roxas reads this piece of yours. Personally, I’d be happy to stand shoulder to shoulder with one of them politicians inside the MRT. The idea isn’t exactly impossible. I remember in the news… Read more »
Hyden Toro
Guest

@YellowTard Johnny Saint:

We don’t care what kind of “son of a bitch” Marcos is; he is past and history.

We are more interested what your Chief YellowTard Aquino; who is also a “son-of-a bitch”. What he has done and is doing to solve the country’s problem. We are interested where Aquino spent the DAP, PDAF, Pork Barrels, etc…

Maybe, you are also paid on this DAP, PDAF, etc…to defend rabidly your Boss.
Kiss his ass; maybe he will pay you more…

Johnny Saint
Guest
It is pitiful that whatever hatred consumes Hyden Toro prevents him from being able to form any coherent thought. It reaches a point that causes him to reinvent historical fact. It’s this kind of emotional behaviour that is often criticised in GRP as being counterproductive, even highly destructive. The point of contention isn’t even difficult to understand. Ferdinand Marcos, despite all his promises and grand plans for the Republic, failed to deliver. His legacy was a multi-billion dollar debt, a ruined economy and the emergence of generations of Filipino migrant workers. None of this repudiates the fact that Penoy Aquino… Read more »
Hyden Toro
Guest

Marcos is no longer relevant…he is dead 30 years ago…Aquino is there sitting in Malacanang Palace. Did Aquino deliver what he promised?

Blaming a politician who has been dead is a stupid way tho play the Blame Game…Aquino’s Game of diversion…anyway, do your part…Aquino may pay you more…

Johnny Saint
Guest
Hyden Toro, You really need to check which delusion it is you are following. The point of contention was Marcos’ so-called ‘plan’ for the Philippines. A plan which was rendered irrelevant and, sadly, another in a long line of missed opportunities for the nation because of his actions while president and the stagnation owing to mismanagement by Cory Aquino who succeeded him. To deny the cumulative effects of poor policy decisions made over the last 40-50 years by successive administrations — from Marcos to Penoy Aquino — to place our current situation into context is the most idiotic attitude to… Read more »
Yawn
Guest
Does not matter if politicians use public transport or not. No one gives a fuck, everyone is in it for themselves. All anyone cares about is me me me me and screw everyone else. All 100 million all talk zero action. Nothing ever changes. Everyone pretends to be different and they all turn out to be the same. Middle classes like to blame the squatters for all the problems in the city, and end of the day they are no different to anyone else. Every day i see car windows open and bags of rubbish being thrown out. Fuck the… Read more »
VLAD
Guest
YES, Mr.YAWN :YOU are absolutely 100% correct. It is truly repulsive to see Filipino’s act like pigs when they go to the beach and leave their garbage where they were sitting as if someone is going to clean it up OR just throw a bag of McD’s or Starbucks remains out the window of their vehicles LIKE FUCKIN PIGS!!! it is the only place I have ever seen where people do this type of thing.It boils down to a lack of respect for Mother Earth and ultimately themselves as they end up living in the shit they throw on the… Read more »
Yawn
Guest

MRT new maximum speed 40 km/h

Shanghai Maglev 431 km/h

Robert Stephenson’s 1829 Rocket a steam train 45 km/h

So now train speeds in Manila have been reduced by a third the queues outside stations will be even longer.

Quicker for Brits to travel by train to work 185 years ago.

yup
Guest

Why not make an MRT station both in Batasan and in the Senate building?, Malacañang too, but just outside the Mendiola bridge.. Probably if MRT stations are built on those place, some government workers could commute to work and complain with their bosses in the Senate, Batasan or in Malacañang about some of its inefficiencies..

Hyden Toro
Guest
@YellowTard Johnny Saint More than 30 years of Aquino era; and you still Blame Marcos, who is dead more than 30 years ago? What kind of thinking is that? Only from a YellowTard, disinformation agent of Aquino. What has the Aquinos done to this country? 1. Protect his Hacienda Luisita. 2. Destroy his political enemies. 3. Made themselves richer and richer; together with their YellowTard minions, who got rich also. 4. They did not control inflation…so there is now hyperinflation….high prices of basic commodities, go higher and higher everyday. 5. Used the Pork Barrel, DAP, PDAF, etc…as incentive to gain… Read more »