Gov’t execs want 30 more days to answer train fare hike critics
Government officials have asked the Supreme Court to give them 30 more days to answer petitions seeking to halt recent fare hikes for the Light Rail Transit (LRT) and Metro Rail Transit (MRT).
The move was denounced by one of the petitioners, who said it would only “prolong the agony” of commuters.
In a seven-page motion, the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) asked the tribunal for a monthlong extension of what was supposed to be a “non-extendible period of 10 days,” citing the three-day holiday declared in Metro Manila for the recent visit of Pope Francis.
One of the petitioners, the militant group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan), vowed to oppose the motion, saying it would further delay court deliberations on its application for a temporary restraining order (TRO).
“This will prolong the agony of hundreds of thousands of commuters who are paying more now,” Bayan secretary general Renato Reyes Jr. said in a statement Tuesday. “We want the issue of the TRO to be resolved as soon as possible because commuters are suffering from the unjust fares with no prospects for a refund should the increase be declared void by the court.”
The other petitioners are the party-list group Bayan Muna, former Iloilo Rep. Augusto Syjuco Jr. and the United Filipino Consumers and Commuters Inc.
The OSG motion was in reply to the cases filed by Bayan and Syjuco which have since been consolidated. Among the respondents were Transportation Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya, MRT-3 Officer-in-Charge Renato San Jose and LRT Authority (LRTA) Administrator Honorito Chaneco. They were given until Jan. 26 to respond to the petitions seeking to stop the fare adjustments which took effect on Jan. 4.
The OSG, however, asked that the respondents be given until Feb. 23 to file their replies since “the period granted by the court… [coincided] with the declared special nonworking days in the NCR (National Capital Region) in view of the state and pastoral visit of His Holiness Pope Francis.”
“Consequently, government offices, including those of public respondents [the Department of Transportation and Communications] and LRTA, were closed on the first four of the 10-day period granted to respondents,” said the motion signed by acting Solicitor General Florin Hilbay.
The pleading filed on Jan. 21 said that the respondents needed more time to coordinate with the concerned agencies, which were all affected by the three-day holiday on Jan. 15, 16 and 19.
The OSG assured the court that its motion was not meant to delay the proceedings, saying it was “intended solely to [allow] respondents to fully and adequately respond to all issues raised by petitioners.”
Last week, Bayan Muna filed an urgent manifestation asking the high court to immediately issue a TRO, citing “recent admissions” of transport officials on their lack of authority to enforce the fare adjustments and without holding adequate public consultations.