Photo courtesy of Adrian Portugal
Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo took the challenge to personally experience the hellish daily commute in Metro Manila but his decision inadvertently added another layer of suffering to the woes of some commuters on Friday morning, October 11.
Passengers rushing to go to work and school who were aboard one of 4 jeepneys Panelo rode on Friday grumbled as Panelo was interviewed by the media. (READ: No transport crisis? Panelo gets to work late after nearly 4-hour commute)
Panelo started his commute from New Manila, taking a jeep to Cubao, another one to Marikina, then another one back to Cubao, where the media spotted him.
Reporters and cameramen swarmed the vehicle for an interview, forcing the jeepney he was riding to stop along Aurora Boulevard.
The reporters were interviewing Panelo for a few minutes – an eternity for people rushing to a destination – and the other passengers started to grumble. Asked if they were bothered, a nun angrily said: "Oo, naapektuhan kami. Eh nagmamadali kami eh. 'Di lang siya ang pasahero dito. Nang dahil sa kanya huminto 'yung jeep."
(Yes, we are affected. We're in a hurry. He's not the only passenger here. Because of him, the jeepney had to stop.)
"Nagmamadali kami. May klase din kami. 'Yung iba sa amin may trabaho din po (We're all in a hurry. We also have classes. Some of us here have work)," she added, speaking for the other passengers.
A motorbike rider who was near the ambush interview area observed that Panelo wasn't experiencing the full extent of commuters' hardships. (READ: Panelo didn't experience real commuter struggle, netizens say)
"Bago-bago ['yung jeep], dapat siksikan, hindi ganun. Dapat ‘yung talagang siksikan, punong-puno ng pawis mo (It should be a packed jeep, not like the one he was riding. It should be packed to the point that you'll sweat buckets)" he said, referring to commuters' daily experience during rush hour.
Media's fault, not mine
Panelo, in turn, blamed the media for hounding him when he supposedly barred media coverage of his commute and kept his route secret, and for causing traffic by interviewing him, though he granted the interview.
"Ang nagcause ng traffic ‘yung mga media, hindi ako. Kasi dalawang oras akong nananahimik eh, bigla kayong dumating. Kaya nga precisely nagdecline ako eh, nagdecline ako ng coverage. But obviously magagaling kayo, natrace 'nyo," he said.
(The media caused traffic, not me. I kept quiet for two hours and then you suddenly showed up. That's precisely why I declined a coverage. But obviously you're good at your job, you were able to trace me.)
The ambush interview lasted around 5 minutes before Panelo tricked the press into thinking he would get down from the jeepney, only to stay put in the back while the jeepney sped off.
On October 9, Panelo accepted the challenge of militant group Anakbayan to try commuting so he can experience what Filipino commuters go through on a daily basis.
Bayan Secretary-General Renato Reyes had earlier offered to accompany Panelo on his commute via LRT2.
Panelo did not meet Reyes at any point during his commute. Asked why, he claimed that Reyes was just seeking publicity.
"Naghahanap lang ‘yan ng media coverage. Ayaw ko ng ganito. Bakit kayo nandito? Pano 'nyo ‘ko natunton (He's just looking for media coverage. I did not want that. Why are you even here? How did you track me down me)?" he reiterated.
On the eve of the challenge. Panelo said he would not be accompanied by any security and press, refusing to give the details of his planned commute. However, netizens who spotted Panelo on Friday took to social media and gave hints as to the Palace official's whereabouts. – Rappler.com
Loreben Tuquero is a researcher-writer for Rappler. Before transferring to Rappler's Research team, she covered transportation, Quezon City, and the Department of the Interior and Local Government as a reporter. She graduated with a communication degree from the Ateneo de Manila University.