By Tonyo Cruz
“Government should ensure equity and human dignity for the people who have been serving as backbone of the country.
“I can’t imagine why our government could be so insensitive to the plight of the poor workers. Not only is public transport so expensive, it demeans the human beings who are cramped inside the MRT and LRT like cattle.
“We would like our workers to be productive, but how could they be productive when they come to work late and tired because of the jostling to get a ride, not to mention the fact that a huge chunk of their daily earnings go to their transportation fare?
“Government must really shoulder part of the transport cost of ordinary wage earners and office workers to ensure equitable and inclusive human development in the city.”
I didn’t write the above paragraphs — but for sure they would hit a raw nerve among the people of Metro Manila considering the worsening problems in the privately-owned MRT in particular, and mass transport in general.
These paragraphs were part of a statement issued by then-Mayor Rodrigo Duterte in June, 2015, when he started his striptease launch of his presidential candidacy, and amid angry protests over the then-Aquino administration’s epic incompetence on the MRT and mass transport issues.
The mayor repeated these words throughout the campaign in 2016, making the public believe he had the “tapang” to take on the oligarchs owning and mismanaging the MRT, and the “malasakit” to put commuters first.
In the same June, 2015, statement, Duterte promised to the people of Davao City that they would have their own 13.6-kilometer LRT
The then-mayor said the LRT’s route would start from Ateneo de Davao University on Roxas Avenue, and end at the Davao International Airport, with trains traveling at 70 kilometers per hour, and could ferry 5,000-20,000 passengers per hour.
Duterte said the Davao LRT “will take into consideration the fact that those who will use it are ordinary people who earn very little.”
The government will subsidize a large portion of the LRT fare to help “contribute to the productivity of the ordinary workers, he added.
Since then, Duterte has won in the elections, riding on a wave of popular anger over the past administration’s record of insensitivity, corruption, incompetence, and patronage in favor of oligarchs. He assumed the presidency on June 30, 2016.
We must set aside the loud but empty noises from his ardent defenders who desperately cover up for his abject failure to put his words into action, especially on the MRT and mass transport. The fact of the matter is that there have been no improvements in the MRT. In fact, it has gone from bad to worse under Duterte.
Take the old “new” train coaches ordered by the Aquino administration which turned out not to fit the outdated MRT system. The Duterte administration has wasted over a year in either returning the coaches or looking for a solution to the problem. One does not need to be anti-Duterte to say that’s stupid and insensitive; one just needs to be a Filipino, concerned for the mass transport mode for people traveling Metro Manila’s main road artery.
It was Duterte himself who promised Metro Manila commuters an improvement in the MRT and LRT. We didn’t even bother to ask him (yet) to rollback the unjust and onerous fare hike, which never went to the promised improvements. By his administration’s inaction and incompetence since June 30, 2016, the MRT has become his and his administration’s. He made the promise, he got the mandate, he obtained the powers, he appointed his transport secretary. If he has failed to deliver, who should we hold accountable?
As for the LRT in Davao, that’s up for the good people there to judge. It sure is a pride to have one’s mayor elevated to the presidency. We cannot begin to imagine their sense of achievement. That is theirs to cherish. We could only ask them to tell the President to deliver his promise. To at least start with the groundbreaking. Or ask the pro-Duterte to make it a priority.
Surely, the people of Davao and the rest of Mindanao could think and speak for themselves, and not be dependent on dynasties, other traditional politicians and their trolls who pose as their spokesmen. Huge amounts of public funds have been spent on the devastating war in Marawi City, and more would have to be appropriated for rebuilding the war-torn Islamic city. Would there be money left for the Davao LRT, and the promised trans-Mindanao train line? Or would they be given to oligarchs as yet another PPP project?
Duterte cannot demand a shorter yardstick from the one we used to assess past presidents. In fact, his populist campaign demands a taller, commensurate yardstick. Neither can his trolls, apologists, and deodorants demand that only his supporters and his voters pass judgment on him. That’s not how democracy works. He is not just president of Davao, or of Duterte supporters. He is president of the Philippines.
Any and all Filipinos should be able to hold him accountable. It is both a right and duty of any citizen.
Nobody can underestimate the MRT and mass transport issues. In 2015, Duterte didn’t, as we saw in his statement at the time.
More than a year into his term, he has nothing to show. Duterte has only turned the problem from bad to worse. So insensitive.