Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo, said he will commute to work on Friday without the company of bodyguards, the media, and other witnesses.
This after a youth group dared Panelo to commute to work using the mass transport system without bodyguards, with no special treatment, and during the early morning rush hours.
“Nakita niyo na ba akong may (Have you seen me with) security ever since I assumed office in the government? None. Kahit sa mga biyahe ko sa abroad, wala rin akong mga kasama. Zero din ako. Punta ka sa mall, makikita mo ako mag-isang lumalakad. Kahit saan, nag-iisa ako palagi (Even in trips abroad, I don’t have companions. Zero. Go to the mall, you’ll see me walking alone. I go by myself anywhere),” he said during a Palace briefing on Thursday.
“Basta ako lang mag-isa. Maraming gustong sumama pero tinanggihan ko (I go by myself. Many are willing to accompany me but I rejected them),” he added.
Despite backlash and threats, Panelo said he had no security concerns and would not consider wearing a disguise since he would be recognized anyway.
Panelo said he also rejected media coverage requests, saying he wanted to take on the challenge without fanfare.
“Ayokong i-media coverage kasi baka magkaroon ng spectacle naman ‘yan. Nagpa-publicity ka lang (I don’t want media coverage because it might turn into a spectacle. They might say I’m doing it for publicity),” he said.
The Palace official said he did not need media to accompany him since commuters who recognize him could take photographs of him and post them on social media.
He said he was also open to taking a “selfie” while on public transport.
However, Panelo was mum on what time he would take the public transport to work and whether he would commute for an entire week, saying he wanted to keep it a “secret”.
In November 2017, former presidential spokesperson Harry Roque also accepted the challenge to take the Metro Rail Transit 3 (MRT-3) and the Light Rail Transit 1 (LRT-1) but drew flak for commuting after rush hours and with media coverage.
Panelo also denied that President Rodrigo Duterte ordered him to accept the challenge.
Asked why he accepted the challenge after initially shrugging it off as a “silly challenge,” Panelo replied: “It’s a silly acceptance” because he wanted to give in to his critics’ wishes.
He, however, said he did not see the dare as a waste of time because he wanted to “sympathize” with the commuters’ daily struggle.
“When you share the suffering of other people in a different way, it’s not a waste of time. It’s sharing,” he said.
Panelo, however, did not give a clear response when asked if he was open to the offer of Bayan Secretary General Renato Reyes to join him in his commute.
“Eh di sumama siya. Kung alam niya kung saan ako pupunta (Then he can join me. If he knows where I’m off to),” he said.
Panelo earlier disagreed with Reyes’ remark that Metro Manila is facing a “mass transport crisis” following glitches encountered recently by three train systems.
Panelo said commuting was “ordinary” to him since he has done it many times before. In fact, he bared he took a cab to work just two months ago.
“Ordinaryo sakin yan kasi meron akong driver pero ang driver ko, minsan nakakatulog. Hinahanap mo, wala na. So anong gagawin mo? Eh di magko-commute ka na lang (That’s ordinary for me because I have a driver but my driver sometimes falls asleep. I look for him and he’s gone. So what do you do? You just commute),” he said.
“Either mag-taxi ka o mag jeep ka papunta sa isang lugar na may taxi so ordinaryo yun. Hindi problema sakin ang pag commute. Matagal na ako nagko-commute (Either you take a taxi or go to a place where there are taxicabs. Commuting is not a problem for me. I’ve been commuting for a long time already),” he added.
Panelo denied that he was trivializing the commuters’ daily plight, explaining that regardless of what mode of transport Filipinos took, they all suffered from being stuck in traffic.
“Whether you are in an air-conditioned car, it’s the same. You suffer,” he said.
“Kahit na hindi ka mag-commute, nararanasan mo pa rin yung paghihirap. Pero para lang pagbigyan sila o sige, gawin natin (Even if you don’t commute, you still experience suffering. But just to give in to their wishes, okay, let’s do it),” he added.
No mass transport crisis
Panelo, meanwhile, insisted anew that there is no mass transport crisis despite a Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) study showing that the Philippines is losing PHP3.5 billion a day due to traffic congestion in Metro Manila.
“Sakin kasi pag crisis ng transport, wala na tayong masakyan. Sarado lahat. Hindi gumagalaw yung MRT. Walang bus, walang jeepney. Yun ang tunay na crisis (For me, if there’s a transport crisis, we have no public transport to take. Everything is shut down. The MRT is not moving. There are no buses, no jeepneys. That’s the real crisis),” Panelo said.
He, however, acknowledged that there is a crisis among commuters and crisis in loss of income.
“With respect to crisis in loss of income, totoo ‘yun (that’s true),” Panelo said.
“Matagal na tayong may ganyan e. Wala pa si Presidente, ganyan na ang problema natin e (That has been a problem for a long time. Even before the President’s term, that has been our problem),” he added.
The Palace official said traffic and glitches in train systems are precisely why the President has been asking for emergency powers from the very start.
Congress has yet to grant the President’s request for emergency powers over concerns of its abuse. (PNA)