‘Wake up early’: Duterte spokesman draws flak for denying Metro Manila has ‘transport crisis’

Commuters have had to rely on buses that traverse Santolan to Cubao due to the partial shutdown of the LRT-2. <i>Photo: Mark Demayo/ABS-CBN News</i>
Commuters have had to rely on buses that traverse Santolan to Cubao due to the partial shutdown of the LRT-2. Photo: Mark Demayo/ABS-CBN News

Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo has often been ridiculed for his unique sartorial choices, as well as for his propensity to ingratiate himself with President Rodrigo Duterte to a sometimes cringe-worthy extent, but netizens were not amused yesterday when Panelo displayed his ignorance of commuters’ plight by dismissing concerns over Manila’s crippling transport crisis.

In a press conference yesterday in Malacañang Palace, Panelo said that commuters are doing fine despite the partial breakdown of the LRT-2, which caught fire late last week.

“There is no [crisis] because people are still arriving at their destinations,” he said, with the tone-deaf air of a man who clearly has never spent two hours stuck in Manila traffic on his way to work.

He also offered a little suggestion for commuters, one made all the more infuriating by the fact that it has already been a daily irritant to thousands of people in and around Manila for years: “There’s a solution to that. If you want to arrive early at your destination, then you go there earlier.”

Three stations of the LRT-2 — Santolan, Anonas, and Katipunan — will be closed for the next nine months after some parts were destroyed in the fire. Replacement parts will need to be sourced from overseas, the line’s management has said. At present, thousands of commuters are looking for alternative ways to reach their destinations.

Panelo made the controversial statements yesterday in reaction to remarks made by Renato Reyes Jr., the secretary-general of activist group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (“New Patriotic Alliance”). Reyes said on Monday that the city is bogged down by a “mass transport crisis” due to the LRT-2’s partial closure, as well as incidents like the three-hour suspension of the MRT-3 in September caused by a power failure.

While Panelo may have displayed insensitivity towards the public’s plight, he admitted that there was something wrong with the LRT-2’s management, but insisted that the president is aware of what’s going on.

“The president receives briefers from every department, so he knows. He wants them to improve their services. Because if the problem is the operation is suspended often, that means something must be wrong. Why can’t they find a solution to that?” Panelo asked.

He added that it should be “easy” for the LRT-2’s management to get the needed spare parts immediately.

“If they cannot do that, then there’s something wrong with management [of the LRT-2].”

Naturally, netizens did not take kindly to Panelo’s leave-the-house-early comment, with some saying that they had been enduring long commutes even prior to the LRT-2’s breakdown.

As @keanugh tweeted: “[Y]ou know how early commuters wake up just to get to their classes/offices?? and with the lrt2 being shut down, imagine how much earlier they have to wake up and the HOURS of sleep they sacrifice in order to get to their destinations on time.”

How long do you commute since the partial closure of LRT-2? Tell us by leaving a comment below or tweeting to @CoconutsManila.

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