The big traffic lie

If any other President had blamed the daily ordeal of traffic jams in Metro Manila on increased car sales instead of on his own incompetence, he’d be laughed out—or pried out, most likely, by irate motorists and commuters—of Malacañang. But Noynoy Aquino, even when he is most candid about how worthless he has been, somehow gets a pass.

From Aquino himself, I gathered that the direct cause of the chaotic traffic situation in Metro Manila is the sheer volume of new vehicles, “which no one could have predicted.” This is as big a whopper as I’ve heard Aquino say over the years—and it speaks volumes of just how useless the current occupant of Malacañang Palace really is, when it comes to solving the problems that really matter to ordinary citizens like you and me.

In an exclusive sit-down with Tina Monzon-Palma aired over the ABS-CBN News Channel Tuesday night, Aquino rattled off the sales figures of the car companies like an industry spokesman, which, given his love of automobiles and legendary attention to detail on issues that he is passionate about, isn’t really surprising. But as good as he is with his figures on increased sales volumes for the entire car industry, he wasn’t as well-versed with what his government has done to anticipate the perfectly natural phenomenon of more people needing more cars.

There is a simple reason for this: Aquino didn’t build any new roads in Metro Manila. And he simultaneously allowed the once-efficient commuter rail systems that he inherited to deteriorate to their current sad state of disrepair.

It was not a direct admission of failure, I understand. But if government cannot be expected to anticipate the ever-increasing number of cars and take measures to mitigate the situation, then whose job is that?

But there is no avoiding the inconvenient truths about the traffic situation: No new infrastructure was built by this administration in Metro Manila, and what public transport systems that were working before Aquino took over have virtually ground to a halt.

Aquino cannot point to any new metropolitan road, bridge, flyover or interchange that was built during his term using the humongous funds at his administration’s disposal. And remember, this is an administration that has not spent P500 billion in allocated funds in the previous two years and P80 billion in the first half of this year alone.

And those who have not yet suffered from total memory loss will recall that when Aquino took over in 2010, the buses on Edsa were already running half-empty, just like the jeepneys on Aurora Boulevard and Taft Avenue, because everyone was already taking the efficient and cheap trains that ran overhead. Now, it gets reported as news when the overloaded trains don’t break down, and people walk along the major roads because they can’t even catch a bus ride.

Of course, Aquino has also moved away from his earlier position that traffic is a good thing, because it supposedly means economic growth. But because of this strange policy of his, outlined early on in his administration, he seems to have concluded that nothing should be done by way of building new metropolitan roads or even of making sure that the commuter trains were properly maintained, let alone improved.

And that seems perfectly fine with the millions of people who suffer in traffic every blessed day (including during weekends) in Metro Manila. I guess it’s true that we get the government that we deserve; and I think we should all stop whining about traffic now, if we refuse to see the official incompetence that caused it.

All that noise about traffic in traditional and social media isn’t worth anything, if people can’t see beyond the gridlock in front of them. So enjoy your journey on the straight path, which may lead you to somewhere nice, if only the traffic weren’t so hellishly bad.

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I don’t know when this phenomenon of complaining but not complaining enough to get to the root of the problem started. And I wish I knew when, exactly, it became fashionable to take a President’s word for anything—even when he is obviously lying through his teeth like Aquino was during his ANC interview.

All I know is that so many people are complaining about traffic in Metro Manila, which has cost so much in time, money and productivity lost over the past five years. And we all know who was supposed to be in charge—but really wasn’t— during that time.

One day, when this administration is no longer in power, perhaps someone will explain to me how so many Filipinos allowed their President to repeatedly excuse himself for not doing his job using the flimsiest of reasons, as Aquino so often has. And maybe, when that day comes, we will all snap out of the collective spell cast upon us and see this incompetent Chief Executive for what he really is.

Meanwhile, we all have to get somewhere. Best to leave as early as we can to avoid traffic.

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