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Atty. Barry Gutierrez: Dazed and Confused

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This past Friday, we were all unwilling witnesses to yet another spectacle from Malacañang spokesperson and master of obfuscation, Salvador Panelo.

Taking on the “challenge” of taking public transportation from his child’s residence in New Manila to Malacañang Palace, Panelo spent nearly four hours on the road, disrupting the morning commute of dozens of hapless citizens and missing no opportunity to take photos of himself. In the end, Panelo, who started his journey at 5:15 AM and arrived at the cozy confines of Malacañang at 8:46 AM – 46 minutes after government offices opened – declared the morning’s travel a triumph, proof positive that there truly was no transportation crisis in Metro Manila.

This latest circus brought to us, whether we wanted it or not, by the President’s official mouthpiece and frequent translator, establishes, once and for all, that this government has really and truly lost touch with reality. That is, if they were really ever grounded at all, or worse, if they even cared they were.

The ubiquitous heavy traffic in Metro Manila, and the ordeal each of us has to go through every day we must brave the clogged streets of the metropolis to get any place beyond the neighborhood sari-sari store, has been our reality for a number of years now. Quibbling over whether it should be called a “crisis” or not is simply not the point — millions of us Filipinos have to suffer through it every day, sacrificing our time, patience, and little pieces of our souls, every day we are forced to make our epic odysseys to and from work, school, or other commitments.

The horrible traffic in Metro Manila, and the terrible toll it takes on commuters, was already a huge issue with Filipinos three years ago that no less than the Duterte campaign, brandishing its “tapang at malasakit” brand, made it a key campaign issue. Duterte condemned the failure of the previous government to solve the traffic problem, and promised a quick solution when elected.

Three years later, and the now incumbent Duterte administration has gone from “I will solve the traffic problem,” to “There is no transport crisis.” How the world has changed.

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And it is abundantly clear right now that we cannot expect any solution to our traffic woes from this administration any more. They have effectively thrown in the towel and admitted that they are completely inutile as regards this particularly issue.

Aside from Panelo’s tack of denying reality even as it took him a nearly four hour journey to get to what passes for his “work,” other Duterte stalwarts such as Senator Assistant to the President (SAP) Bong Go have attempted to package the traffic mess as insoluble, declaring that only “Superman” could solve it.

And while more logical minded individuals might see a contradiction in Panelo’s “there is no traffic crisis” line, and Go’s “the traffic crisis is so bad only Superman can solve it” remark, the common thread to both is “don’t expect the Duterte government to do anything about it.”

Whether it is because there is really no problem to solve, as per Panelo (actually, his view brings to mind Transportation Secretary Art Tugade’s earlier statement that traffic “is just a state of mind,” so points for consistency, I guess) , or the problem is so huge no one can solve it, as per Go, we Filipinos, stuck for hours in another traffic hell on EDSA, should just, as the President himself would put it, STOP looking to the government for a reprieve.
Now, I get that, I really do. The traffic issue is certainly not easy to solve. Certainly, no amount of MMDA “experiments” will do it. And unlike other problems this administration has “solved,” photo ops and social media campaigns will not suffice either.

But what I cannot stomach, is that in the face of this administration’s uselessness in addressing the traffic crisis (and yes, I think we can all, with the exception of Panelo, agree there is one), is that they insist on insulting us even as we languish in the middle of yet another daily carmaggedon.

Panelo’s “commute,” no matter how cute he may have found it, is an insult to every Filipino who must go through that hell every morning, only to be docked pay for being late to work at the end of it. Go’s “Superman” statement, no matter how cool he may think it makes him, is a slap to the face of every Filipino who pays taxes on petroleum and transport fares, and expects this government to do something, or at least try to do something, to help make their daily commute a little less unbearable.

You guys are our government. You wanted this. You asked for it. Stop clowning around and do your jobs.

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