There was a time I liked Senator Grace Poe. I thought she was smart and fair. She didn’t seem like a pushover, or a woman who would fall into the trap of Pinoy macho politics and politicking. She was far from seeming like a trapo with traditional politician moves.
And then she took the MRT.
Free MRT endorsement
This is the oldest trick in the politician’s book, isn’t it?
I grew up watching politicos having some shellfish to prove there’s no red tide in the sea— never mind that too many had already been poisoned. Recently Food Security and Agriculture Modernization Secretary Kiko Pangilinan appeared on TV with three different kinds of rice in three different rice cookers. He partakes of some NFA rice and says it is now fit for consumption.
Department of Transportation and Communication (DOTC) Secretary Jun Abaya took the train to prove to the public that it is safe. Senator Poe took the train too and concludes that there is hope for the MRT: “I believe the MRT is not a hopeless situation. The government just has to step up its effort in the proper maintenance of the trains and the stations.”
Uh, we could’ve told you exactly that Senator Poe, este Citizen Poe, esteRunning-For-2016-Poe. In fact the public has been telling politicians like you and this government exactly what you concluded upon riding the MRT one way, from North Avenue Station to Taft Station, on a trip that was two hours and ten minutes in total (including the time you spent queuing up).
There is nothing new or extraordinary about what you discovered, and it’s easy to see that the only thing gained from this experience of yours is . . . some political pretty points.
Because you are the only thing that’s different in that picture of MRT hell that the public paints, Senator Poe, and with you in that picture things actually look up for the horrid MRT service that the public suffers every day.
One wonders if you realize that. That as your PR team suggested you take the train, or you thought to take the train and take some photos to prove that you did, that you would be the perfect poster child for MRT commuting, providing the train with the endorsement it needs.
“Pleasant” is far from the way the public would describe getting on that train. But Senator Poe’s image on the train is a gift that will keep on giving.
Once does not mean anything
And then there’s just the fact that spending an hour and a half on the train, and 40 minutes in line to get on it, is far from experiencing what the public goes through every day. Let’s see what it is that Senator Poe did not experience when she fell in line to get on the MRT on Friday, at 8:20 a.m., the height of rush hour, the press spin tells us.
She did not experience the rush hour commute to the MRT station: the long walks, the fighting with or harassment from cab drivers, the tricycle or jeepney ride to the nearest stop. She doesn’t know of how it feels to arrive at the station and find that long line. She does not know of how it feels to have to climb those long flights of stairs to get on the train’s platform, which remind of how badly planned this train was to begin with, and how it did not take the public’s safety and comfort into consideration.
Senator Poe did not experience having to wake up three hours before she needs to be at the office, just so she might make it in time for the bundy clock, and not lose some of the salary she works hard for. She did not experience falling in line for the train with so little sleep, because it took forever to get home the night before – be it on the train, or on any other public transport that traverses EDSA.
Senator Poe did not experience trying to get on the train for an urgent appointment, finding that the wagon reserved for senior citizens, women, and persons with disability full, and being forced to get on that train for everyone. She did not experience the utter fear of getting into a wagon filled mostly with men, and realizing its danger only upon feeling all eyes on you.
She did not experience having to get out of that wagon, and deciding instead to get on a cramped women’s wagon, that one where there is no kindness, just suffocation.
Senator Poe did not experience traveling on the MRT at night, so she might see how badly lit it is and how scary it can become, with no sense of security or safety. She did not experience needing to pee, and finding that the toilets are far from being safe or clean.
She did not experience getting out of the station at night, to be met by an EDSA that is dark and scary and is devoid of any sense of security, too.
Messing with our minds
The idea that Senator Poe—or any politician—can ride the MRT once and feel what it’s like for the public is so false, one knows it’s nothing but a political stunt.
A trapo political stunt, to be exact.
But Pinoy social media is so ready to be enamored by Senator Poe—or so desperate for a semblance of a “new” politician maybe?—that it now thinks her the yardstick against which all other politicians must be measured.
Please lang. Any politician— and I say any one of them—can go on a joyride on the MRT.
Now living with the MRT and public transport, the unsafe roads and streets that bring us from our homes to the train station to our offices, with no air-conditioned car waiting at our destination station to pick us up, is something else. Living with streets where women are harassed by the every-manong, where the choice everyone makes is to be unsafe on a bus, or unsafe on the MRT. Where public transport is a risk that one takes.
THAT is the MRT challenge. Anything less than a month taking the train and doing the commute, to and from work, is nothing but baloney. Senator Poe’s stunt included.