‘Service is our priority.’
Unbelievable, but these words were uttered by Jose Angel Honrado, general manager of the Manila Airport Authority, in response to renewed calls for his resignation after the five-hour blackout over the weekend at Terminal 3 of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport.
More than 80 flights were canceled as a result of the power outage, and thousands of passengers were stranded. Imagine, too, the conditions suffered by the people inside a dark terminal on a sweltering night.
Amid demands that he step down, Honrado said: “If every time there is a problem, you ask the official to resign, then you are looking for a problem every month.”
Honrado has been airport manager for nearly six years, during which Naia has been adjudged worst airport in the world by travelers polled online, become notorious for delays due to runway traffic, and yet again for a bullet-planting scheme used by personnel as a way to extort money from clueless, terrified passengers.
And now this. “If you feel that a five-hour brownout is too long, we’re just so sorry. We did not want that to happen. We didn’t realize that there would be a problem,” he said at a briefing Tuesday.
Remember, too, how he prattled on about soap and toilet paper in reaction to criticism that the airport facilities were below par.
Honrado’s words betray his misappreciation of his job and of the basic idea of management accountability. Yes, a five-hour outage is too long. In fact, a five-minute blackout would also be too long. Airports are not supposed to experience these things at all. It is inconvenient—oppressive—for the passengers and embarrassing to the country, which is trying to convince the rest of the world that we should be taken seriously as a tourism and investment destination.
During a Senate hearing on the bullet-planting scheme, Honrado was asked if he knew what his job was as GM. He said he coordinates but does not control the people at the airport. Certainly he’s getting much more in salary and a fancy title than the pittance he deserves.
Then again, none of this surprises us. The President’s got Honrado’s back just as he’s got the backs of Transportation Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya and all other officials who consistently bungle their jobs but are just so indispensable. What is amazing is how Mr. Aquino can refuse to fire them and yet expect the people to believe the yarn that we are still treading the straight path.
These shameless officials and the President who condones them have priorities, indeed. Genuine public service just is not one of them.