Sara Duterte calls week-long transport strike ‘communist-inspired, pointless’
MANILA, Philippines — The week-long transport strike set for March 6 is “communist-inspired,” “pointless,” and a “painful interference” in the Department of Education’s efforts to fix the problems in the system.
This was Vice President Sara Duterte’s take on the scheduled transport strike by several groups against the Public Utility Vehicle Modernization Program (PUVMP), and her response to the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT-Teachers) pledge of support to the said protest.
“Learning recovery is foremost on the agenda of the Department of Education today. It does not include the pointless weeklong transport strike supported by ACT,” said Duterte in a statement.
“The transport strike is a painful interference in our efforts to provide solutions to the problems besetting our education system and will only exacerbate the learning hardships of our students,” she added.
According to Duterte, ACT’s support for the strike shows its true colors, saying the group “does not really serve the interest of students and teachers” as it should know that a week-long transport strike is “a learning disruption.”
“But ACT couldn’t care less if our efforts are hampered or if we fail because — as a lover of the useless ideologies espoused by the New People’s Army, the Communist Party of the Philippines, and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines — ACT’s dream is for our children to remain uneducated and poor,” said Duterte.
Meanwhile, Duterte in the same statement also announced that alternative delivery modes will be implemented during the said strike.
“I maintain that during this communist-inspired weeklong strike, both in-person and alternative delivery modes of learning shall be implemented, whichever is convenient to the learners,” she said.
She then challenged ACT to show its sincerity to the students, the teachers, and the entire Philippine education system “by working with Local Government Units and other government agencies to ensure the convenience of learners during the transport strike instead of supporting it.”
It can be recalled that ACT pledged its support for the said transport strike, which is a move against the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board’s (LTFRB) Circular Memorandum No. 2023-013, setting the deadline for the phaseout of traditional jeepneys until June 30.
The said deadline, however, was since moved to Dec. 31, but transport groups continue to argue that an extension would still mean a loss of livelihood for operators and drivers of traditional jeepneys nationwide.
House Deputy Minority leader and ACT Teachers party-list Rep. France Castro on the same day then denounced Duterte’s “red-tagging” not just of the ACT but the public utility drivers who will join the transport strike as well as their supporters.
“Napakamanhid naman ng ganyang pahayag. Sa halip na salubungin ng pag-unawa ang mga PUV (public utility vehicle) drivers na matatanggalan ng trabaho dahil sa ipinipilit na modernization program ng pamahalaan ay inilalagay pa sila at ang mga grupong tulad ng ACT sa panganib dahil sa panrered-tag sa kanila ng bise presidente mismo,” said Castro.
(Such a statement is very insensitive. Instead of welcoming the PUV drivers who will be laid off due to the government’s forced modernization program with understanding, the drivers and groups like ACT are being put at risk because the vice president himself has red-tagged them.)
“Naranasan na ba ng mga nanrered-tag sa mga drivers kung gano kahirap ang mamasada maghapon at mag-uuwi ng kakarampot lang na kinita? O di kaya naman ay ang mga ga-blockbuster na pila ng mga pasahero o pagsabit sa jeep para lang makapasok sa eskwela o sa trabaho,” she added.
(Have those who red-tagged the drivers ever experienced how difficult it is to drive around all day and bring home only a meager income? Or at least endured the long queues of passengers or hanging on the jeep just to get to school or work?)
According to Castro, jeepney drivers and operators who will take part in the said strike already acknowledged the inconvenience or hardship the strike will cause, but also recognize that the lives and livelihoods of their families are what they are fighting for here.
“Maging sensitibo sana ang mga opisyal ng gobyerno sa nararanasan ng kanilang mga nasasakupan,” said Castro.
(Government officials should be sensitive to what their constituents are going through.)
Transport group Piston in a separate statement also slammed Duterte’s red-tagging, saying that it will not address the transport woes associated with the PUVMP.
“Iniiwasan ni Inday Sara at ng buong administrasyong Marcos na pakinggan at pag-usapan kung paano ba tutugon sa hinaing ng mga tsuper at komyuter. Ginawa niyang panangga ang red-tagging at iyung biglaang concern para sa edukasyon natin. Mabuti pa turuan ang mga kabataan kung anong halaga ng isang public utility na binabalewala ng gobyerno,” PISTON national president Mody Floranda said.
(Duterte and the Marcos administration are not willing to listen and discuss how to respond to the grievances of the drivers and commuters. They’re using red-tagging and their sudden concern for education as a defense. It would be better to teach the youth about the worth of public utility vehicles which are being ignored by the government.)
Piston explained that the strike is intended to draw attention to the plight of drivers, operators, and commuters, demanding an end to the “anti-poor and anti-people” modernization scheme which will triple basic fares and rid hundreds of thousands of people of their livelihood.
Floranda then chided Duterte for seemingly casting that blame on the transport strike when it was the Philippines itself that was tagged as one of the worst-performing countries during the pandemic and that includes how it handled the return to classrooms.
“Kasalanan ba namin kung Pilipinas ang isa sa mga pinakahuling nagbalik sa klase? Hindi kami ang sanhi ng interference sa pag-aaral ng mga bata. Palpak ang pamamalakd mo sa DepEd. Mabuti pa gamitin mo itong susunod na linggo para mag muni-muni sa mga solusyon para sa classroom shortage at historical distortions sa curriculum natin,” said Floranda.
(Is it our fault if the Philippines is one of the last to return to face-to-face classes? We are not the cause of interference in children’s education. Your behavior in DepEd is sloppy. You better use this next week to reflect on solutions for the classroom shortage and historical distortions in our curriculum.)
The group then noted that Duterte’s statements are clearly intended to discredit the strike, vilify its supporters, and turn the public’s attention away from the core issues at hand.