Striking drivers face penalties, DOTr warns
MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Transportation (DOTr) has warned drivers of public utility vehicles (PUVs) who will join the weeklong transport strike starting today that they face both administrative and criminal sanctions, including the revocation of their franchises.
Meanwhile, the Metro Manila Development Council (MMDC), in anticipation of the strike, lifted for Monday the implementation of the Unified Vehicular Volume Reduction Program, or the expanded number coding scheme.
The Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB), for its part, ordered its regional directors to issue special permits to PUVs that would allow them to operate outside of their routes, to ensure that no commuters will be affected by the “tigil pasada” protest action this week.
The government said earlier it will deploy vehicles to areas to be affected by the protest—which is also anticipated outside the National Capital Region.
The LTFRB-National Capital Region on Sunday noted an earlier assertion by the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority that the majority of the big transport groups in Metro Manila will not join the strike.
These are the National Federation of Transport Cooperatives, the Alliance of Transport Operators’ and Drivers’ Association of the Philippines, the Liga ng Transportasyon at Operators sa Pilipinas, the Alliance of Concerned Transport Organizations, Pasang Masda Jeepney, the Federation of Jeepney Operators and Drivers Association of the Philippines, Stop and Go Coalition, the Senate Employees Transport Service Cooperative, and the UV Express National Alliance of the Philippines.
‘Obligation to the public’
Speaking in a news forum on Saturday, Transportation Undersecretary for Legal Affairs Reinier Yebra said administrative penalties may result from violations of the terms of the franchises granted to jeepney drivers and operators.
“If you are a franchise holder, you have the obligation to give service to the public. If you fail to do it and instead go on strike, it’s as if you violated the conditions of your franchise, [so] that [franchise] can be revoked,” he said.
Yebra said those going on strike can also be charged criminally if they hurt people or destroy property.
“We want to emphasize that a franchise is not a right, it’s a mere privilege that the state can take back anytime if you do not comply [with the terms]. In other words, there are many mechanisms to protect our commuters both on the criminal and administrative aspects. We’re supported by the law on this,” said Yebra, a graduate of the San Beda Law School who topped the bar examinations in 2009.
Transportation Secretary Jaime Bautista said in the same forum that the government’s Public Utility Vehicle Modernization Program (PUVMP) will not only facilitate the operations of PUVs, but also generate more jobs in the transport sector.
“It should be explained to them that if they consolidate [into cooperatives or corporations], their organization becomes stronger, their operations will be efficient, the boundary system will disappear, and the drivers will have the proper wages and work in proper hours — they won’t be driving 18 to 20 hours a day,” he pointed out.
Other transport groups on Sunday expressed support for the weeklong strike led by Manibela, although they will not join the protest.
“We sympathize with them and we hope it won’t be violent this coming Monday,” said Samuel Ramos of the Manila Taxi and Regional Association.
Ramos said they are not against the government’s modernization program, but noted that it needs to undergo scrutiny and, if possible, be legislated first.
According to Ariel Lim, head of the National Public Transport Coalition, if the PUVMP will be enacted into law, all concerns can be evaluated thoroughly.
June Magno of the Truck Drivers Philippines noted that the imported modern vehicles are “very expensive,” considering the alternative solutions.
Juancho Caparino, chair of the Association of Committed Transport Organizations Nationwide (Actona) Corp., agreed, saying, “Don’t force us to embrace [imported] vehicles that cost P2.5 million to P2.6 million when we can develop our own.”
Actona initially joined the call for the strike, but following the government’s openness for dialogue, Caparino said they will instead go to the DOTr and LTFRB to lobby for the locally produced and refurbished jeepneys that cost only P1.3 million.
The Federation of Free Workers called on President Marcos to review the previous administration’s jeepney modernization plan.
Meanwhile, in an advisory, the Department of Education (DepEd) instructed regional directors and division superintendents to prepare for in-person classes and modular distance learning, depending on the circumstances in their respective areas.
Vice President and Education Secretary Sara Duterte on Sunday called the weeklong transport “pointless” and “communist-inspired,” as she reiterated the DepEd decision not to suspend classes.
Responding to Duterte’s statement, House deputy minority leader and ACT Teachers party list Rep. France Castro said government officials should observe sensitivity to the plight of their constituents.