By Jojo Robles | Aug. 15, 2014

Like the ill-fated MRT train that crashed through the end of its line last Tuesday, the mind of President Noynoy Aquino has apparently gotten derailed. By entertaining the possibility of a term extension, Aquino has lost his brakes and jumped the tracks near the end of the daang matuwid that he promised to take us on.

And so it has come to this: the President who once steadfastly declared that he would not seek to stay in office longer than his six constitutional  years says he is now considering a term extension, if that is what his “bosses” want.

If Aquino really listened to his bosses, instead of just to the voices in his head and those whispering in his ear, he’d heed his late mother Cory, as well. And Cory Aquino, whose death gave us Noynoy as President, was clear about term extensions when she spoke at an anti-charter change rally in 1997:

“That is why we are here, to tell the people who want to stay in power, by martial law or charter change: no way and never again. Do your worst. We will do our best to stop you. And we, the people, will prevail.”

But the current Aquino is now like that runaway MRT train and can no longer be stopped by the barriers put up by the 1987 Constitution. And like that train, he will crash, with all of us whom he has taken for a ride fearing for our lives inside the decrepit coaches that he promised would take us to a glorious final station where there will be neither poverty nor corruption.

Like that ill-fated train, Aquino’s mind has gotten uncoupled from reality. And now, like the actual passengers of that train, we are all hurtling towards a train wreck that we never signed up for.

* * *

The MRT train had stalled on its southbound journey right after the Magallanes station in Makati. According to eyewitness accounts, it was still very much visible from the Magallanes platform, which is why the commonsensical (and safe) thing to do, since there were passengers aboard, was to tow it back to the station it had just left, unload its human cargo and bring it back empty to the terminal using another train.

But some MRT boss decreed that an empty southbound train should instead push the stalled and loaded one to Pasay City, after both trains had been coupled to each other. That’s when all hell started to break loose.

When the train out of Magallanes suddenly stopped, it lost all power, which is why passengers reported that even the air-conditioning stopped. Its brakes automatically engaged, however, to immobilize it.

This was the situation when the empty rescuing train arrived. When it got to the distressed train, it had to be connected or “coupled” to it to start the pushing to Pasay City, where the next station (and the end of the line) was.

According to my sources, the “black box” on the train indicated that the coupling was not properly done. But of course, the loaded, distressed train had to release its brakes so that it would be in “neutral,” making it entirely dependent on power and braking on the train pushing it from behind.

When the pushing train started taking the distressed one down Edsa from its elevated position in Magallanes, gravity took over. The empty train, which was not coupled correctly, broke free from its load – and the free-wheeling, brake-less, passenger-filled train started hurtling down the track with no way of stopping.

You can imagine the panic that gripped the passengers as their train started its headlong rush after breaking free from the rescuing train, going downhill from the height of the Magallanes station. Since the train had no power, it could not brake to a stop and it crashed right through the safety barrier at the end of the line, which was only built to stop a train going up to 30 kph, at the most.

The real miracle is how no one was killed in the accident, which was certainly avoidable, had MRT’s management followed its own protocols in such situations. Now MRT officials have to answer some very important questions, including:

Why was the decision arrived at to push the distressed train all the way downhill to Taft Avenue instead of just towing it back safely to Magallanes, which was closer and a lot safer, since no risky slope was present? Don’t train-operation protocols the world over place the highest priority on the safety of passengers, whose lives must not be risked by towing them in a powerless train?

Why was the coupling of the two trains not secured, since the distressed one will have to rely solely on the rescuing one for power and braking? Who allowed the trains the run in this dangerous manner?

What is the impact of the cheaper maintenance contract of MRT on the operation of the line, which Japanese contractors had already warned was dangerously obsolescent even if it had been maintained with all the money in the world? Who’s ultimately responsible, now that MRT doesn’t even have a full-time manager?

Finally, why is Aquino acting like a runaway train and taking us all downhill at a high, brake-less speed that not even the advice of his own sainted mother can stop?