Reacting to persistent complaints from Light Rail Transit (LRT) and Metro Rail Transit (MRT) passengers, Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda reminded the commuters last week that while the Aquino administration promised to implement reforms, they “never promised a rose garden.”
By that, Lacierda obviously meant that Filipino commuters enduring long lines at train stations under the scorching heat of the summer sun, packed coaches with weak air-conditioning, prolonged waiting times and broken turnstiles should just learn to suck it up and deal with it.
That’s easy for him to say since he’s probably grown accustomed to the privileged and cushy lifestyle of a Cabinet-level bureaucrat. Perhaps it’s high time Lacierda and other top Palace officials got off their lofty perch in Malacañang and join the almost half-million Filipinos suffering daily from a deteriorating light rail transport system.
Of course, the indifferent attitude of Malacañang towards the plight of working class Filipinos shouldn’t come as a shock.
By saying that PNoy only promised a straight and narrow path, not a rose garden, Malacañang is implying that ordinary Filipinos have only themselves to blame for having unreasonably high expectations of the Aquino administration. That or our countrymen are a bunch of complainers who ought to be more grateful to PNoy for supposedly undertaking good governance reforms.
For many folks, the Palace’s “rose garden” statement reeks of arrogance.
First off, someone should remind Lacierda that it was his boss, PNoy, who raised people’s expectations with his “kung walang corrupt, walang mahirap” battle cry.
Moreover, despite the so-called good governance reforms undertaken by PNoy, top administration officials continue to be linked to corruption allegations.
Recently, Czech ambassador to the Philippines Josef Rychtar went on television openly accusing Metro Rail Transit III general manager Al Vitangcol III of involvement in an alleged $30-million extortion attempt from Czech railway firm Inekon during the term of then Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) Secretary Mar Roxas.
According to the Czech ambassador, he met with current DOTC chief Joseph Emilio Abaya last year hoping that the latter would initiate an investigation into the alleged extortion try, which incidentally, was first exposed in a three-part report by Manila Times’ Chairman Emeritus Dr. Dante Ang.
Rychtar claimed that Instead of acting on his complaint, Abaya even scolded him over the phone when the names of PNoy’s sister, Ballsy Aquino-Cruz, and her husband Eldon Cruz were dragged into the alleged extortion try.
The Palace quickly absolved Abaya of any wrongdoing despite Lacierda’s own admission that “there is [still]an ongoing investigation with the NBI.”
In fact, Lacierda even branded the Czech envoy a liar for claiming that Abaya shouted at him over the phone.
“You know I asked that particular question to [Abaya]. I called him, and he never called Ambassador Rychtar,” said Lacierda. “And I can very well tell you that the mere fact that he claimed that Jun called him and shouted at him, that’s already not true,” Lacierda added.
Clearly, Malacañang’s premature acquittal of Abaya flies in the face of their supposed good governance reforms.
“We’re moving towards good governance,” Lacierda boasted during the Palace press briefing. “Certainly, it will take time for us to effect change but what is important is that good governance should start from the top,” he added.
Yet, in the same breath, Lacierda is shielding another top PNoy ally from the corruption controversy, trying to poke holes in the Czech envoy’s extortion story as if he were Abaya’s lawyer.
Why the Palace appears too eager to discredit the Czech envoy’s extortion allegations seem a little odd. After all, Rychtar’s motive in pursuing his shakedown claims hardly raises any suspicion considering that Inekon didn’t participate in the bidding and the DOTC already awarded the supply contract to a Chinese firm.
Which is why some people are now asking: Is Vitangcol’s attempt to strike a deal with Inekon the reason why the DOTC dilly-dallied with the LRT and MRT upgrade even though PNoy had approved the P6.3-billion funding for the project as early as October 2011?
Undoubtedly, this long-delayed rehabilitation of Metro Manila’s light railway system has placed an additional burden on Filipino commuters who are already finding it difficult to cope with transportation expenses and the costs of basic goods like food and medicine.
According to the January 2014 survey of research group IBON, 43.6 percent (or almost 1 in every 2 Filipinos) are having problems meeting transportation expenses. The survey also found that more than 1 in 2 Filipinos have trouble buying enough food and paying for medical treatment while 7 out of 10 Filipinos are finding it difficult paying for electricity.
The way we see it, if PNoy cannot make the lives of Filipinos better, at least he shouldn’t make it any harder.
We therefore beg your pardon, Mr. President.
We never asked for a rose garden. But we didn’t ask for a bed of thorns either.