In an exuberant post on social media, Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. insisted that Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo won his contest with leftist groups that challenged him to take public transportation to work so that he could feel the pain of the commuting masses.
“It was a giant win for Sal Panelo because he answered the challenge and pulled it off and that was the point, right? Of course it is. Unless you’re a f****** communist then the only point is to take power and unleash a famine like Mao did,” Locsin said, mocking local leftists and offending Beijing all in one go.
In the elegant and understated prose we have come to expect from the Foreign secretary, he added: “YOU GOTTA ADMIT, HE TOOK THEIR DARE AND HE PULLED IT OFF. LOW CLASS B*TCHES WON’T ACCEPT THAT HE WON THAT ONE.”
But what did the President’s spokesman really win?
The dare was issued after Panelo denied the existence of a public transportation crisis, even though two train systems had been crippled and Metro Manila’s main thoroughfare and the expressway that connected it with provinces in the south had become virtual parking lots because of mind-numbing traffic congestion.
Commuters, Panelo blithely suggested, should simply wake up earlier so that they could get where they were going on time.
Critics, particularly from the left, criticized Panelo for his insensitive remarks and dared him to walk in the shoes of regular commuters.
This he did on Friday, taking three jeepney rides from his home in Marikina City and hitching the rest of the way to the Palace in Manila on a motorcycle, in a 3.5-hour publicity stunt that did nothing to help long-suffering commuters, convince us that all was well with the public transport system, or dispel the perception that he was a callous official who would think nothing of telling the hungry to go eat cake—or tell a typhoon survivor to be thankful he was alive.
In fact, the presidential spokesman seemed to learned nothing from his 3.5-hour commute, telling critics to stop “nitpicking” and instead offer practical suggestions on how traffic congestion might be eased. He then urged commuters again to be “creative” by waking up earlier to allow for the longer travel time to their places of employment.
If anything, the President’s spokesman might well have succeeded in convincing us that he’s a bigger ass than we thought—and that this administration is no different from its predecessor in terms of callousness and arrogance. And that’s something the Foreign secretary can hang his Mao cap on.