“It’s like we’re now working only for oil companies and traffic-regulating agencies,” said George San Mateo, secretary-general of the Pagkakaisa ng mga Samahan ng Tsuper at Operator Nationwide (Piston), on the increase in traffic violation fines.
BY ALEXANDER MARTIN REMOLLINO AND MARIANNE FAYE B. MIRAMBEL
Mario San Juan, 46, a jeepney driver, is the only breadwinner in his family. Though it is said that “life begins at 40”, he confesses to finding it more difficult to endure the hardships of work now than he did in his younger days.
Working for 14 hours a day or even more through smoke and dust on the streets, as most other jeepney drivers do, has never been enough to earn San Juan a decent living. Now life is getting more difficult for them, not only because of frequent increases in the prices of petroleum products and other basic goods, but because of last year’s increase in traffic violation fines imposed by the Department of Transportation and Communication (DoTC).
“Kung dati dalawang beses lang kumain ang pamilya ko, ngayon isang beses na lang kung kumain” (Whereas before my family used to eat twice a day, now we eat only once a day), he shared.
This, he said, is why whenever Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) traffic enforcers flag him down for alleged traffic violations, he does his best to negotiate his way out of trouble. “Hindi ko na alam kung paano pa ako kikita lalo na ngayong itinaas nila ang multa” (I don’t how else I could earn a living especially now that they’ve increase the fines), he said.
Domingo Reyes, although he does not oppose the increase in fines, is nevertheless concerned about it. “Kapag nahuli…mas kulang na sa panggastos sa araw-araw” (When you get flagged down for a traffic violation…you’ll have even less to spend for your daily needs), said Reyes, who is also a jeepney driver.
The DoTC’s Department Order 2008-39, implemented last August, increases fines for unlicensed drivers from P750 to P1,500 ($15.51 to $30 at the exchange rate of $1=P48.35); driving with an expired license from P300 to P400 ($6.20 to $8.27); driving with suspended or revoked license from P300 to P1,000($6.20 to $20.68); driving without license from P150 to P200 ($3.10 to P4.13); failure to sign driver’s license from P150 to P200; and drunk driving from P2,000 to P5,000 ($41.36 to $103).
Even at their previous levels, these fines equal or even surpass the usual amounts that jeepney drivers are able to take home after a workday of 14 hours or more.
“It’s like we’re now working only for oil companies and traffic-regulating agencies,” said George San Mateo, secretary-general of the Pagkakaisa ng mga Samahan ng Tsuper at Operator Nationwide (Piston or Unity of Drivers’ and Operators’ Associations). “There can be no worse time for that than now, especially since we’re in the midst of a crisis and prices of petroleum products are again soaring.”
“Besides, what drivers are doing is a public service, so the government should help us rather than impose additional burdens on us,” he added. “We are already overtaxed: we pay the VAT (value-added tax) on oil, we pay the road user’s tax, we pay the franchise tax, we pay the common carrier tax. That is apart from the high prices of goods.