THE talk among coffee shop habitués nowadays is how foot-and-mouth disease seems to have afflicted the leadership of the Liberal Party (LP). No, not the kind that infects cattle, deer, goats, and other cloven-hoofed animals. Rather, it is a sarcastic take on the propensity of LP officials in the PNoy government to put their foot in their mouths.
Lately though, this scourge has turned into an epidemic, with its latest victim being LP secretary general and Transportation Secretary Jun Abaya.
In response to the prediction that traffic gridlock in the eastern part of Metro Manila will be “bloody” once the construction of Light Railway Transit (LRT-2) extension project starts next month, Abaya countered that the traffic was “not fatal” to motorists and commuters. Worse, Abaya even clarified that what he meant by “not fatal” was that the traffic was “not burdensome to the daily lives of the people.”
Abaya obviously does not feel burdened by the worsening traffic congestion because he’s used to being driven around the metropolis with his police escorts and back up vehicles, or even flown to his next appointment by helicopter.
But for ordinary workers caught in Metro Manila’s horrendous traffic jam, the daily gridlock on the road means late dinners, shorter sleeping hours, less family bonding time, and in some cases, even a salary deduction.
On a national scale, the traffic congestion is costing the economy P2.4 billion a day (or P876-billion every year) in terms of lost productivity, higher fuel and operating costs of vehicles and adverse health effects, according to a 2012 study of the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA).
That’s money we could have used to build two P50-billion skyways, or a P135-billion mass transit subway along the 23-kilometer stretch of EDSA, or both, with billions more to spare.
Although Abaya has apologized for his “not fatal” remarks after being crucified in social and mainstream media, his off-the-cuff statement gives us an insight to his true beliefs and mindset. It clearly shows that Abaya just doesn’t really give a crap about the ordeal many Filipinos have to go through every day.
Abaya’s cavalier attitude towards the day-to-day misery of ordinary commuters should not come as a surprise especially since his predecessor at the DOTC – LP standard bearer and PNoy’s Anointed One Mar Roxas – share the sentiment that traffic isn’t fatal.
In fact, Roxas says road congestion is merely an effect of the country’s booming economy. “This is a problem in a sense that arises from prosperity. Because there is money. Because there is economic activity,” the LP’s presidential bet explained.
In other words, for Roxas, the gridlock on our streets is something to brag about, an achievement of the PNoy administration. Wow!! Unbelievable!!
Roxas’ twisted logic clearly mirrors that of PNoy – LP’s titular head and party chairman.
During a speech in Cebu more than a year ago, PNoy said that the horrible traffic situation is a sign of a booming economy, adding that it’s better to face the heavy gridlock in EDSA than to have dismal economic activity.
“The heavy traffic on EDSA is a better problem, that’s right, because many vehicles are on the road because the economy is doing well. Having no traffic on EDSA, on the other hand, means nobody can buy gasoline for their cars,” PNoy said
This warped mentality explains why PNoy and the Liberal Party officials in his Cabinet like Roxas and Abaya have done nothing to fix Metro Manila’s deteriorating traffic situation for the past 5 years. With barely a year left in PNoy’s term, it’s now too late to start, let alone complete, any major road project to ease the daily traffic congestion.
Still, if presidential spokesman (and Mar Roxas mouthpiece) Edwin Lacierda has his way, he wants the Liberal Party to be in power for two more decades, saying that it would take that much time for PNoy’s good governance reforms to bear substantial fruit. Lacierda claims that by the 18th year, these reforms “should have taken root.”
But by saying the LP needs another 20 years, isn’t Lacierda admitting that PNoy was not able to accomplish much during his five-and-a-half years in office? Isn’t that an acknowledgment that PNoy’s so-called reforms were a failure in that it did not take root?
Isn’t that also an admission that Roxas would not be able to accomplish much even if he wins the 2016 presidential elections? That Roxas, like PNoy, is doomed to be an impotent leader?
Like they say, six years is too long for a bad president. Why should Filipinos take a gamble on someone who admittedly will not be able to produce results during his presidency?
No wonder the Liberal Party’s presidential bet is languishing at the bottom of the surveys, so much so that he’s finding it hard convincing someone to run as his vice-president.