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.


Post Author: benign0

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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

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


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!!!


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
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 »
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 »
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 »

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.

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 »

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
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 »

”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
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 »

da Pilippinas is da best!


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.

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 »
“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 »
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 »

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.


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..