Editorial & Opinion

Going undercover

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Talk about an unusual way to reach out to voters. The prime minister of Norway, Jens Stoltenberg, revealed that he went undercover as a taxi driver in the capital sometime in June in a bid to find out what the people’s real concerns were.


The Norwegian premier is facing elections on September 9 in which his Labour Party, in power since 2005, appears likely to lose to the Conservative opposition, according to early opinion polls.

Stoltenberg put on an Oslo Taxi uniform, complete with a badge bearing his name. He drove a black Mercedes and picked up passengers from downtown Oslo.

Many of the passengers recognized Stoltenberg, or at least commented on the cab driver’s remarkable resemblance to the prime minister.

Those who recognized him talked about wide-ranging topics such as the huge salaries of corporate executives, education, and oil.

“It’s important for me to hear what people really think. If there’s one place where people say what they think, it’s in the taxi,” he said in a video posted on various social media.

Here at home, it is impossible to think that our leader, President Aquino, would be able to pull the same stunt even if he wanted to. Foremost, we easily get starstruck with our officials; seeing them up close would elicit the same reaction as an encounter with a movie star would.

Telling the President what we really think might also be difficult given that he has a propensity to listen to only those who agree with him. In fact, Mr. Aquino has on several occasions chastised the media for not being more positive about his administration.

But it would be too much to ask the people to agree with his every word, act and gimmick when all we see is selective zeal and self-serving rhetoric.

For example, while we have heard so much about the straight path and the drive to stamp out corruption, the President’s silence on the misuse of the Priority Development Assistance Fund by legislative and executive officials is just resounding.

It is not difficult to imagine why Mr. Aquino would hesitate to occasion a probe into the pork scam. After all, officials from both the opposition and the administration have been named to have benefited from such.  He also had long years as a legislator himself—it would be far-fetched for him to not hear about long-standing practices by his former colleagues.

In the meantime, he has assiduously applied the full force of the law and his influence to prosecute those he considers his adversaries. This would be commendable—if only he applied the same standards to everybody.

But we must remember that this President does not like being criticized. So woe to those who might get into his taxi, as they might find themselves ejected by the sidewalk, as Mr. Aquino finds other, more agreeable citizens to exchange pleasantries with. Manila Standard

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