Secretary Abaya, have you no shame?
ANY government official with a sense of propriety would have resigned by now in shame.
But Transportation Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya, one of President Aquino’s golden boys, has clung to his office for more than two years, even as the transportation system that he is supposed to manage goes to hell in a hand basket.
Where do we begin?
In August 2014, an MRT coach derailed, rammed through a barrier and crashed into a busy intersection, injuring 38 people. A subsequent investigation blamed human error, but it was clear that the commuter rail system had begun to deteriorate as a result of years of neglect and poor maintenance. None of this could be rightfully blamed on the previous administration because four years had already passed since the President took power.
The embarrassing accident should have spurred the Department of Transportation and Communication under Abaya to take swift, remedial action, but it did no such thing, and tens of thousands of commuters continue to suffer for it even today.
A coach stalled as it approached the Ortigas Avenue station on the first day of 2015, setting the stage for a string of system breakdowns that now happen with alarming regularity. In fact, not a month has gone by since without a major breakdown in service.
Breakdowns were also reported on Feb. 17, March 11, April 30, May 25 and just this week, on June 15, when hapless passengers on the stalled train were made to walk along Guadalupe Bridge to find some other form of transportation.
Throughout all this, the Palace’s idea of solving the problem has not been to fire Abaya and to appoint someone more competent, but to ask long-suffering commuters to be more patient. It is a plea that has gone back to as early as March 2014; this month, the President’s deputy spokesperson made the same shopworn appeal as the number of trains that remained in operation dwindled to only nine, creating long lines and extending the time commuters had to wait to board their train.
Nor has the Philippine National Railways (PNR) done much better under Abaya’s watch.
On April 29, at least 80 people were injured after a PNR train was derailed near Magallanes. Pending an investigation, train service to Metro Manila was suspended until this month.
At the Land Transportation Office (LTO), another agency under Abaya, car owners are being made to pay for new license plates that the agency is unable to supply. Even drivers licenses are no longer issued in a timely manner, as they were during the previous administration.
Finally, at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) Terminal 1, adjudged one of the worst airports in the world since President Aquino took over, the ceiling leaks when it rains despite a recent P1.3 billion facelift.
With such a dismal record of failure, we feel compelled to borrow the famous words that American lawyer Joseph Welch said to the red-baiting Senator Joseph McCarthy in the 1950s: Secretary Abaya, have you no sense of decency?