Panelo's ‘commute challenge’ revives proposal for officials to take public transportation

Ian Nicolas Cigaral - Philstar.com
Salvador Panelo
Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo on Friday, Oct. 11, 2019, arrived for work late after taking public transportation and spending nearly four hours on the road.
The STAR / Michael Varcas

MANILA, Philippines — After presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo accepted critics' challenge for him to commute from home to Malacañan, a lawmaker said Saturday that he will file a proposal for government officials to take public transportation every Monday to help decongest the capital.

Panelo arrived late to work on Friday after taking public transportation and spending nearly four hours on the road.

The Palace spokesman was taking on a challenge posed by progressive groups that he commute to work following his comment that there is no transportation crisis in Metro Manila — a view that he maintained despite his arduous travel.

Praising Panelo for being a “good example”, Rep. Frederick Siao (Iligan City) said he would file a bill that, if signed into law, would require government officials to commute to and from work every Monday to ease traffic.

Taking public transportation to work would also serve as a “weekly” reminder for government officials about “the suffering the masses endure on a consistent basis,” Siao explained.

“That would already be thousands of government vehicles off the streets, enough to significantly decongest traffic,” Siao said in a statement.

A bill requiring all elected and appointed public officials to ride public transportation to and from work at least once a month was filed during the 17th Congress.

However, the measure did not move past the committee level.

The 17th Congress also saw a member of the House of Representatives telling the Metro Manila Development Authority not to issue tickets to lawmakers.

"A senator or member of the House of Representatives shall, in all offenses punishable by not more than six years imprisonment, be privileged from arrest while Congress is in session,"
Rodolfo Fariñas, then Ilocos Norte representative and House majority leader, told the MMDA in September 2017.

Senate President Vicente Sotto III said in response to the supposed immunity for lawmakers, said he drives his own vehicle, so "if I am flagged down, I will say you cannot apprehend me because that is in the Constitution."

Members of the House of Representatives are issued protocol plates, which have, at times led to abuse and misrepresentation.

RELATED: After road rage incident, Arroyo orders recall of protocol plates

"This concept can be given a trial run all over Metro Manila. If successful, it can be replicated in other highly urbanized areas of the country where heavy traffic is also a daily torment," Siao said of his proposal for government officials to take public transportation.

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