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Editorial

Clueless

/ 12:35 AM November 12, 2015

Can the commuting masses who demand better public transportation services be deemed unreasonable? Are they being petulant when, in exchange for their money, they expect the MRT/LRT rush-hour queues, though frighteningly long, to at least lumber along smoothly, and the trains to be sufficient for their great numbers, not to conk out on dangerously defective rails or to overshoot metal barriers, not to leak when it rains, and to hum efficiently and quickly overhead, bearing them to the workplaces that galvanize commerce and industry?

The way it looks, the way transportation officials headed by Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya behave, the teeming masses forced to put up with all manner of glitches almost daily in their commute are being a spoiled bunch in their expectations. Up to this late date, Abaya seems to have no idea of the agony that accompanies commuting in the metropolis; if he does, he would be behaving differently and wouldn’t dream of adding any more to President Aquino’s plate of embarrassments. Wouldn’t he?

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Apparently not. At the Senate hearing last Monday, the dismal state of MRT3 and the unsatisfactory moves of the Department of Transportation and Communications under Abaya’s leadership—for example, Dalian Locomotive and Rolling Stock Co. had been allowed to deliver the urgently-needed new trains without the engines, thus precluding their immediate testing, and at any rate 7,000 meters of defective rails still have to be replaced before train testing—were formally disclosed to the public under the questioning of Sen. Grace Poe. The long and short of it was that a day after the hearing, in which the most annoying delays (in the rehabilitation of elevators and escalators, in the procurement of components for women’s toilets, etc.) were disclosed, Poe was moved to comment that the nation needed a better DOTC chief.

She is too kind in her formulation. That Abaya is unfit for the DOTC portfolio has been made clear early on, not only in the dismal state of the MRT/LRT but also in sundry other matters such as long-delayed vehicle license plates and even poor interconnections. By his words he has displayed a particular contempt for the commuting public, cavalierly dismissing its complaints about the state of the MRT/LRT and generally opening his mouth to put his foot in: For example, last August, responding to complaints about the road congestion resulting from the construction of the LRT Line 2 extension, he imperiously said the heavy traffic was “not fatal” (“hindi nakakamatay” was what he reportedly said; the nuance is lost in translation) and not a “burden” to the people’s daily lives. Later, taking a beating in the traditional and social media, he apologized for what he said. But the exchange underscored a combative, trigger-happy nature hardly suitable for a Cabinet official in the service of the people.

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And then there was the time in August 2014 when he deigned to get on the MRT3, ostensibly to look into commuters’ complaints. He sallied forth at the relatively less stressful hour of 1 p.m. in the company of other DOTC officials, a gaggle of media persons, and, by certain accounts, an umbrella man. (What is it about umbrella men and people in power?) The DOTC chief took an uneventful ride from Ortigas to North Avenue—and wondered what everyone had been complaining about. He didn’t—doesn’t—have a clue.

Now he has been tasked to look into the rash of “laglag-bala” incidents at the airport involving an apparent scam to fleece travelers “found” with a bullet or two in their luggage. He said the investigation would take a month but that the numbers—“only three cases,” and “we can’t necessarily deduce that these three cases are of ‘laglag-bala’”—don’t appear to indicate a syndicate at work. Halfway attentive observers can hardly be expected to hold their breath.

Abaya, a known friend of the President, calls his being in office a “mere privilege.” It’s not too late to give up that privilege. Back in the day when knights stood for honor and fidelity, they did not hesitate to fall on their sword in defense of their king.

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TAGS: Joseph Emilio Abaya, LRT, mass transit, MRT, traffic, Transportation
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