Transport group wants suspended bus franchises restored | Inquirer News
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Transport group wants suspended bus franchises restored

MANILA, Philippines—Transportation partylist 1-United Transport Koalisyon (1-Utak) is planning to question the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board’s (LTFRB) suspension of bus franchises before the Supreme Court, saying operators have been unfairly penalized for exercising rights protected by the Constitution.

This week, the LTFRB cancelled the franchise of singer-entrepreneur Claire de la Fuente’s bus firm and suspended the franchises of 14 others for six months for their alleged participation in a transport strike in November 15 of last year.

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The strike, which left thousands of passengers stranded on Metro Manila’s roads, was in protest of the government’s move to include public utility vehicles in the number coding scheme.

“There is no law prohibiting public transport operators from going on strike,” said Vigor Mendoza, who used to represent the party-list in Congress.

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He said the right to strike was enshrined in the Constitution and could be prohibited only in certain cases. He said that under the law, only government employees, security guards and military personnel have been prohibited from going on strike.

The LTFRB under the Aquino administration has adopted a zero-tolerance policy against transport strikes. The regulator has said that any cessation of services to the public would be punishable either with the suspension or the cancellation of a company’s franchise.

The regulator noted that the public transport operators have been required under their franchise to provide reliable service to the public. Bus operators have 30 days to appeal the LTFRB’s decision before the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC).

Asked for comment, Transportation and Communications Secretary Manuel “Mar” Roxas II said he would meet with top LTFRB officials to discuss the matter. “I will get updates from chairman Jaime Jacob,” he said.

“No one wants a strike to ever happen. But we will not sit down and have our rights trampled upon,” Mendoza said.

Mendoza declined to say exactly when the group would file its petition before the high tribunal, but said it would likely be within the month.

He said the LTFRB’s position not only violated the transport sector’s right to strike but the industry’s right to express their grievances to the government.

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But aside from this, the lawyer said the November 15 strike was a “driver-initiated” protest, and should not be blamed on operators.

“It was a driver-led strike but operators are being penalized. There is no evidence to show the operators held the strike,” Mendoza said, adding that the on the day of the strike, bus companies had met with Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) chair Francis Tolentino and agreed to call off the protests.

“Unfortunately, that decision never reached the drivers so they pushed through with the strike,” Mendoza said.

He added that a group of drivers, not operators, questioned the inclusion of buses in the number coding scheme before the Supreme Court in November of last year.

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TAGS: 1-United Transport Koalisyon, 1-Utak, buses, Business, land transportation, Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board’s, Laws and regulation, LTFRB, public franchises, public utility buses, transport strikes
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