Circuses and publicity stunts won’t solve the Philippines’ public transport crisis

Government officials like Salvador Panelo, egged on by Opposition “activists” and “influencers”, are stepping up to “challenges” to personally experience taking public transport. Quite quaint — except that it trivialises the plight of millions of real Filipino commuters. For most ordinary Filipinos, taking public transport is a daily reality. While these latest circuses make for amusing reality TV, it is unlikely that the average Filipino commuter will be amused for long.

For one thing, Panelo is not even in a position to deliver real solutions to this crisis. He merely panders to the bloodlust of a a community of Opposition partisans who are all but frustrated by their own failure to properly acquire power — via legitimate elections. This is all just a distraction that goes nowhere towards an honest effort to deliver results to ordinary Filipinos. Both Panelo and the Opposition partisans and “activists” who heckle him are being dishonest in their intent.

Public transport is a public administration discipline with a lot of science and engineering that underlies it. It cannot be solved by a bunch of virtue signalling bozos out for a bit of social media mileage. Indeed this and another “trending” circus — that Celine Pialago “fake news” imbroglio involving “satire” outlet Barurot News — highlight the intellectual bankruptcy of the public “debate” around public transport. None of these are headed towards any result that is actually useful to the Filipino commuter. They only aim to, at worst, aggrandise the egos involved or, at best, serve partisan agendas.

To be fair, I did challenge politicians to take public transport some time back in my 2014 article “How can Metro Manila ever improve if Filipino politicians do not take public transport?”.

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.

The difference with this challenge is that its intent is two fold: (1) propose a relevant criterion to measure a politician’s resolve and personal conviction in the lead up to an election and (2) provide politicians who are able to make a long-term commitment to the challenge with relevant experience to guide their policies and legislation once in office.

Perhaps if challenges like these are directed towards such constructive ends rather than used as blunt tools by brain-dead “activists” and social media mavens to demonise personal enemies, then we will have afforded ourselves some assurance that we had grown up a bit in our practice of “democracy”. Sadly, Filipinos have a long way to go in that regard. Rather than step up to challenges that serve the national interest, the current crop of Yellowtard-led “opposition” movements do nothing more than make themselves the wellsprings of national stupidity.