By Carmela Fonbuena /Guardian News & Media
President Rodrigo Duterte’s spokesman suffered through a three-hour commute in Manila’s clogged street after drawing public anger by insisting there was no traffic problem in the Philippines capital.
Salvador Panelo ditched his car and documented the journey after accepting a social media challenge to experience the daily woes of commuters.
He had been criticised for saying “there is no mass transport crisis” and that people could still arrive at work on time if they left home early.
The statement came amid growing criticism of the Duterte government’s failure to provide solutions to ease transport problems after a fire that suspended the operations of a key metro train line on which students rely heavily.
Panelo left his home at 5.15am on Friday and had to take four separate jeepney, or bus, rides to get to Malacanang palace, the president’s official residence.
He reached the gate at 8.30am.
“It took me a long time to wait for jeepneys because they were packed.
They were always packed,” Panelo said in a radio interview.
At one point, he had to wait up to 35 minutes for a ride.
He refused to let journalists accompany him during the journey and avoided the route where he knew reporters were waiting.
But he took “selfie” photos of himself and sent them to the media.
On Friday, Panelo again maintained there was no mass transport crisis because there is “no paralysis” on the roads.
He said Filipinos were “very creative people” who knew how to adjust to “hostile situations”. Duterte himself did not escape public ire after an ill-timed announcement from the Philippine Air Force that it had acquired a P2bn jet for Duterte’s travels.
One particular meme circulated showing the president on the plane with Panelo, laughing together after saying there was no mass transport crisis in the capital.
While Duterte continues to enjoy high satisfaction ratings, the latest numbers show he is losing double-digit support among the poor.
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