When in 2013 former President Noynoy Aquino flippantly said that he and his bosom buddy, ex-Transportation chief Jun Abaya would have themselves run over by a train if they fail to improve the services of the MRT, little did he know that his ill-thought witticism would end up hounding him and his chosen successor three years later.
While Aquino could afford to make light of it (as he often did), for the regular commuters who had to endure the long lines stretching from the station platforms all the way down to the smoky sidewalks of Edsa it was just too much to bear. It was time to say goodbye to ‘Daang Matuwid’ and their calloused insensitivity.
It is therefore no surprise that President Duterte has placed a premium on making sure that the failures of their predecessor are not repeated. Not only is it good politics, it is also a matter of public welfare. And at the helm of this effort is Department of Transportation Secretary, Art Tugade – a big bear of a man who goes about his job without much fanfare.
His workmanlike approach to problem solving – coming at it from different angles and being practical in finding solutions – does not allow him to accept defeat. Which is actually the perfect mindset for his particular job, since everyone more or less agrees that there is no single answer to solve the transportation woes of Metro Manila and other major cities.
Now as far as the MRT goes, we recently found out that Sec. Tugade – in an effort to get a feel of what people go through – sometimes rides the MRT himself. And even encourages other public officials to do so. But unlike the much-publicized trips taken by presidential candidates Mar Roxas and Grace Poe, Tugade’s sorties have been more low key. No media, no publicity.
During these trips Sec. Tugade is said to inspect the facilities, including the elevators and escalators (which might explain why most of them are now operational), as well as the condition of the commuters during rush hour. And he sees things that can never be appreciated from the comfortable confines of an air-conditioned SUV, or a well-appointed office.
Tugade’s secret trips on the MRT reminds me of President Duterte’s own undercover taxi drives around Davao City when he was still our mayor. Being good friends all the way from their college years, it does not surprise me in the least that they think so much alike. Which is probably why Duterte gave him the job in the first place.
Now if only we can get Noynoy to make good on his promise – now that’s a line many people would not mind queuing up for.