Well, folks, we have to admit we were a little skeptical (OK, a lot skeptical), but ol’ Salvador Panelo actually did it: this morning the presidential spokesman stepped into the shoes of an average Manileño to take not one, but three jeepneys and a habal-habal to commute from his home in Marikina to his office at the Malacañang Palace.
And it only took three and a half hours!
Panelo undertook the grueling commute (or, as its known to non-presidential spokespeople, a completely typical commute) after an activist youth group challenged him to get to work via the capital’s ailing public transit system after he reacted dismissively to comments that Manila is facing a “transport crisis.” Panelo even went on to suggest that if commuters wanted to arrive at their destinations on time, they should simply leave a little earlier — an idea that infuriated countless netizens, who have endured multi-hour commutes for years.
Today, however, Panelo put his morning commute where his mouth is.
Clad in a white shirt, black slacks, and a white cap, President Rodrigo Duterte’s most passionate defender was spotted in the village of Concepcion in his hometown of Marikina at 6:45am waiting for a ride, CNN Philippines reported. A Twitter user named Rya Ducusin also said she overheard a cop asking Panelo if he needed a taxi, with the latter allegedly replying that he was looking for a jeepney that would take him to Santa Mesa, in central Manila.
Just prior, at around 5:30am, Panelo gave an interview to radio station DZMM in which he claimed that he was on a jeepney, but refused to divulge his location. He said he had accepted the challenge because he wanted to prove that he knew what ordinary Filipino commuters went through every day.
“I don’t have to ride a jeep [or] MRT to know the state of the nation,” he said in a mix of English and Filipino. “The president is looking for a solution, [Transport] Secretary [Art] Tugade is trying to find a solution. Everyone is trying to look for a solution, but the nation’s problems are not that simple.”
He also stubbornly stuck to his earlier opinion that Manila is not in the midst of a transport crisis — while somewhat confusingly also acknowledging that “we really have a problem.”
“I’m saying there’s no crisis because there’s no paralysis. We have a crisis because our people are suffering,” he said.
“There is no doubt that ordinary folks, even those who drive in their cars, who take air-conditioned vehicles, all of them are suffering. But if you ask if there’s a crisis in transportation, I said there isn’t because there is no paralysis and we still have vehicles to ride on.”
He also refused to apologize for his prior insensitive comments about people leaving their homes early.
“When I said people should leave early so that they can arrive at their destinations [on time], [I said that] because we really have a problem — so you have to do something about it. That’s what I also do, even if I have my own car. I wake up early so that I arrive at my destination [on time].”
“We can’t just curse at our situation and do nothing. We have find a way to solve it,” he said.
Despite an earlier pronouncement that he was willing to commute with prominent government critic Renato Reyes — whose claims of a transport crisis Panelo had first dismissed — ol’ Sal traveled alone this morning. Reyes, meanwhile, turned up at the currently shuttered Santolan LRT-2 station forlornly wondering where his political frenemy was.
“Santolan, 5:15am, while waiting for a free ride going to LRT-2 Cubao station. Where is Sal Panelo today?” Reyes said in a Facebook post.
Manila Standard reports today that Panelo finally arrived at Malacañang Palace at 8:45am, after spending three hours and 30 minutes traveling there from Marikina — a distance of about 15 kilometers. He did not take the LRT-2, as he previously said he would, but instead took three jeepneys and one motorcyle taxi, or habal-habal. (If he’d have followed Coconuts Manila‘s suggested jeepney-LRT-walk route, he could have saved about 40 minutes, but hey, you can lead a horse to water…)
Even Panelo’s nemesis Reyes congratulated him on his monumental achievement, while also admonishing him in a Facebook post that he still got to the Malacañang “a bit late from the official government [start] time of 8am.”
“Just the same, we hope this whole experience underscored the fact that there IS a mass transport crisis and that long term solutions are needed,” Reyes added. “We have a serious mass transport crisis which we can no longer downplay or ignore.”
What do you think of Panelo’s stunt? Tell us by leaving a comment below or tweeting to @CoconutsManila.
Find all episodes of The Coconuts Podcast
This article, He really did it! Salvador Panelo takes 3 jeepneys and a motorcycle to Malacañang Palace, originally appeared on Coconuts, Asia's leading alternative media company. Want more Coconuts? Sign up for our newsletters!