MANILA (UPDATE) - A lawmaker is seeking to require government officials to ride public transport at least once a month during the weekday rush hour.
ANGAT Tayo Party List Rep. Neil Abayon has filed 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," Abayon said in a statement.
The bill as filed, however, appears to have an error since Section 2 in the declaration of policy reads: "Get exception from the law on conduct of public officials."
Abayon is one of the youngest lawmakers in the House, at just 29 years old.
The 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 Abayon's bill, saying it would be better for them to personally experience commuting during rush hours.
"Why not? That's a very good proposal dito sa NCR [National Capital Region]. Well, nightmare naman talaga ang traffic dito. We have come up with some proposed solutions. Sometimes I take the bus so I can feel how comfortable is the travel," House Minority Leader Danilo Suarez said.
Laguna Rep. Sol Aragones said immersion is important for lawmakers in proposing bills.
"Sa akin okay lang yun mag-commute once a month. Mas maiintidihan mo ang isang bagay kung mararanasan mo ng personal. Okay pa sa akin na mag-commute kahit pa twice a month...," Aragones said.
Cabinet Secretaries Alan Peter Cayetano and Silvestre Bello III also gave their nod to the measure.
"It's good. It's one reason why the presidential form of government is more embraced in the Filipino...," Cayetano said.
"If Congress will pass that, I don't mind doing because I've been doing that while I was in government service. Sumasakay ako sa MRT, LRT even when I was SOJ (Secretary of Justice)..." Bello said.
Abayon filed the bill amid public uproar over the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board's suspension of ride-hailing service Uber's operations.
"The objective [is] so we can empathize with the riding pubic. The transport sector kasi, if we go to the field, makikita talaga namin kung ano yung problemang dinadaanan ng riding public on a daily basis," he said.