MANILA, Philippines — It’s an idea that’s been bandied about since the last administration: If government officials had to endure the daily agony of Metro Manila’s commuters, they might do everything to solve the National Capital Region’s nightmare traffic.
Now a party-list lawmaker has filed a bill that seeks to do exactly that.
House Bill No. 6195 of Aangat Tayo party-list Representative Harlin Neil Abayon III would require elected and appointed local and national government officials, from division chiefs to Cabinet secretaries, to take public transport to and from work or official business during rush hours at least once during each calendar month.
The measure proposes they use the transport available in the places where these officials live: passenger buses, commuter trains, light rail transit systems, taxis and transport network vehicle services, public utility jeepneys, and tricycles.
“Public service requires empathy and concern for the people served … Public servants should maintain their empathy with and compassion for the people by riding public transportation on occasion,” Abayon said in the bill’s explanatory note.
“The personal, first-hand experience of riding public transportation will enable legislators to gain real world perspectives and inputs in aid of legislation,” he added.
The bill also limits all elected and appointed officials, regardless of rank, to economy class air travel.
The only exceptions to these limitations are:
- actual existing physical handicap or serious medical condition that significantly limits physical movement and mobility as certified by a licensed practicing medical specialist
- security threats and concerns involving the President, Vice President, the Chief Justice and Justices of the Supreme Court. However, these particular constitutional officials may voluntarily set aside the exception but they may be accompanied by a personal security team whose number, members, and security measures shall be determined by the Presidential Security Group and by the Philippine National Police office responsible for security details of very important personalities
The bill, however, does not propose any penalty violators
In 2014, a petition was placed online through the change.org urging public officials to take public transport once a month.
“The only way government officials will understand the plight of commuters is if they themselves take public transit regularly,” the petition said.
Government officials are known to take public transport in other countries. Some foreign government officials known to regularly use public transport are:
- David Cameron (Prime Minister, United Kingdom) frequently takes the Tube (the London Underground). He has also told government ministers to forget the limo and take the Tube.
- François Hollande (President, France) use the train to official journeys within France, and to European summits in Brussels.
- Rahm Emanuel (Mayor, Chicago City) takes the train to his city hall office about twice a week.
- Boris Johnson (Mayor, City of London) is regularly seen biking through London and also uses the Tube.