SC assigns 2 petitions vs MRT, LRT fare hikes to justice
MANILA, Philippines—As the riding public awaits court relief from the costlier train commute in Metro Manila, petitions questioning the government-imposed fare hike have been assigned to a justice at the Supreme Court as fare hike objectors hoped for the court’s immediate action.
In a statement, the office of Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno said the first two petitions filed against the fare hike at the Metro Rail Transit Line 3 and the Light Rail Transit Lines 1 and 2 were already raffled off to the justice-in-charge.
The high court did not disclose the magistrate who has been picked to handle the cases, separately filed Monday by the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) and Iloilo Rep. Augusto Syjuco.
“The Office of the Chief Justice would like to inform the public that the petitions [filed by Bayan and Syjuco] … have been raffled. In accordance with the internal rules of the Supreme Court, the Chief Justice will have to await the recommendation of the Member-in-Charge,” read a statement, signed by Sereno’s staff head, lawyer Ma. Lourdes Oliveros.
The cases were sent to the assigned magistrate just as two more petitions were filed against the hike on Tuesday, both petitions for certiorari and prohibition that hoped to stop the fare hike that took effect Sunday.
The high court’s information office had no information whether the later petitions would also be sent to the same justice handling the first two cases. Similar petitions are normally consolidated.
The four separate petitions asked the high court for the immediate issuance of a temporary restraining order (TRO) in a bid to stop the enforcement of the hike during court deliberation on whether to permanently bar the adjustment.
Bayan Secretary General Renato Reyes Jr. called on the public to continue supporting moves to stop the fare hike.
“We call on the public to press with protests against the fare hike, especially now that the two petitions have been raffled. Public opinion is key to immediately stopping the fare hike via a TRO,” he said in a statement on Wednesday.
Addressing the high court, he also underscored the urgency for a TRO, saying train fares could not be refunded later in case petitioners win the case, unlike in suits involving other public utilities, such as electricity.
“The Supreme Court must also consider that unlike in Meralco (Manila Electric Company), there is no refund for train fares. The damage to the public would have been done,” said Reyes.
“It is therefore necessary to issue a TRO to protect the riding public. The longer the increase is allowed to take effect, the more the public will suffer and there would be no way to rectify the unjust collection,” he added.
Treading a similar line, the four petitions questioned the authority of the Department of Transportation of Communication (DOTC) in enforcing the fare hike. The petitions said Transportation Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya committed grave abuse of discretion in implementing the adjustment.
The fare increase imposed an adjustment of 50 to 87 percent across the three train lines, adding a charge of P1 per kilometer on the P11 base charge.
The DOTC said the fare adjustment aimed to step up maintenance efforts on the aging trains. The petitioners, however, said the increase was burdensome, especially to minimum wage earners.
An estimated 1.2 million commuters take the metro trains daily.
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