MANILA, Philippines — Following criticisms of his alleged “epal” (attention-grabbing) move, presidential spokesperson and human rights adviser Harry Roque defended his decision not to ride the Metro Rail Transit-3 during rush hour, saying this would only cause more discomfort among train passengers.
“Sa tingin ko po ay talo diyan, ‘pag sumakay tayo ng rush hour, sasabihin masyado tayong nanggugulo. Hindi na nga po tayo rush hour sumakay, marami pa ring nagsabi na nagulo sila,” Roque told the state-run Philippine News Agency recently.
[I see it as a losing proposition–if we ride during rush hour, they’d say we’re messing things up. We already rode during non-rush hours, yet some were still saying we’re disturbing them.]
He also denied that he rode the ailing MRT-3 last week because he was seeking public attention. Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez recently announced that he wanted Roque to be included in the administration’s 2018 senatorial lineup.
“I always ride it even without the media,” he said.
Roque said that because the MRT-3 issue was always raised during press briefings, he decided to assess the situation on the ground.
“Ang matagal talaga iyong pagpipila lang, kasi mga 15 to 20 minutes ako pumila, hindi na rush hour. So kapag rush hour iyan, siguro aabot iyan ng 30 to 45 minutes na pagpipila ‘no na kaya naman mahaba ang pilahan dahil kulang ang bagon,” he said.
[What really takes long is the queueing. I lined up for 15 to 20 minutes when it was no longer rush hour. So if that was on a rush hour, the lining up alone would probably take 30 to 45 minutes. The reason the lines are long is that there are not enough coaches.]
Despite technical problems being faced by the aging rapid train system, Roque said “it’s still the best form of mass transport because it’s quick and it’s cold.”
“I think the decision of the government to rescind the contract is correct and the decision to take over the MRT, for now, is correct, and the decision to also get a maintenance contractor for the long trip operation is also correct. So it validates all that the government is doing,” he said.