IN THIS country, you seldom see politicians and government officials take public transport like jeepneys, buses or light rail transits.
With a few exceptions, government officials, appointed, elected or otherwise, feel they are the blessed ones, the cut above the rest, so to speak and therefore riding in public transport is basically a taboo for them.
Or simply put, these officials, particularly the elected ones, believing they are ‘first class citizens’ don’t ever bother to look back where they once belong.
The only time they join with the ‘masa’ is during election period -- riding whatever available public conveyance to the delight of the media and their supporters.
We have a multitude of government employees that take public transportation every business day, but an elected official would rarely take public transportation as they would be chatted upon, accosted, and jeered, making themselves a target by today’s standards.
In contrast, their counterparts in other cities and countries are regularly taking public transportation. They ride the bus or the train as a matter of course, yet they suffer no abuse.
In Indonesia, President Joko Widodo bans public officials from using their cars on the first Friday of every month.
And if 91 per cent of the delegates to the Swiss Parliament can take the tram to work, why can’t our politicians and government officials use public transit, instead of cars, to get to work?
In the 17th Congress, there was this proposed House Bill 6195, which mandates elected and appointed public officials with the rank or equivalent of division chief to department secretary to ride public land transport to and from work and for official business at least once every calendar month during weekday rush hours.
Public utility vehicles listed in the measure are passenger buses, commuter trains, light rail, taxis and transport network vehicle service, public utility jeepneys and passenger tricycles.
For air and sea travel, officials will be mandated to take economy class.
The President, Vice President, the Chief Justice and the Justices of the Supreme Court, however, are exempted from the proposed bill as well as officials with existing physical handicaps or serious medical condition, security threats and concerns.
Public service improves when it is rendered with empathy and compassion. Public service requires living modestly and does not mean entitlement to perks such as business class and first-class accommodations with airlines.
The proposed measure also tasks the Philippine National Police, the Armed Forces of the Philippines, and the Presidential Security Group to formulate the Implementing Rules and Regulations of the law.
Some government officials have expressed support for the proposed bill, saying it would be better for them to personally experience commuting during rush hours.
Government officials, including Malacañang staff and those in the Cabinet, are urged to commute at least once a week to understand the plight of commuters amid complaints on how the government is handling the public transportation problem particularly in Metro Manila.
Secretary Sal Panelo has already set the tone. Time for our politicians and government officials to heed this clarion call: lead by example. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
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