The Stop and Go coalition said the new joint order imposing higher fines and penalties affects not only drivers and operators of public utility vehicles but private motorists as well.
By MARYA SALAMAT
MANILA – Drivers and operators of jeepneys, utility vans, and other types of public utility vehicles converged in Quezon City and Manila yesterday morning and from there met for a picket in front of the Supreme Court. They urged the high court to decide on the petition they filed against excessive fines being charged by the government.
Jun Magno, president of Stop and Go coalition, told Bulatlat.com that they are hoping the Supreme Court would issue its decision in their en banc session to be held that day. So far, they have not heard of any update on their petition. He said no dialogue has also been scheduled by government agencies concerned with land transportation.
The Stop and Go coalition of drivers and operators has a pending petition before the Supreme Court asking it to issue a Temporary Restraining Order, or TRO, on the implementation of the newly issued edict increasing the fees and fines for traffic and administrative violations as stated in the DOTC-LTO-LTFRB Joint Administrative Order (JAO) # 2014-01.
The new order has unleashed protests and complaints among drivers and prompted them to come together in “No to JAO #2014-01 Alliance.” Last July 3, the ten days given by the High Court to the DOTC-LTFRB-LTO to counter the transport groups’ petition for a TRO have expired. Because of this, the “No to JAO 2014-01 Alliance”, in a Transport Summit held last July 5, 2014, decided to hold a series of concerted actions to emphasize the need for the issuance of a TRO while the Court considers the merits of the case.
The picket in front of the Supreme Court is part of the planned series of concerted mass actions by the drivers.
Sham public hearing
The said order raising fines, which was issued jointy by the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC), Land Transportation Office (LTO) and Land Transport Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) is not “well thought out,” Magno told Bulatlat.com. He described it as an “overnight production” that conflicted not just with the livelihood of the public utility drivers and even private motorists, but also with some laws.
For example, Magno said, the said new order prohibits them from loading passengers in areas that are not their terminal. “But these agencies know that jeepney and AUV taxis have no terminal!” Magno exclaimed.
Another provision, he said, states that they will be fined P1,000 ($23.06) if they have no signboard. But, Magno said, by law, it is illegal for them, AUV taxis and even jeepneys, to display a signboard.
Magno said they are questioning also the process of adjudication stated in the new order. It provided that if a driver is apprehended, he would be brought to the LTO, and to the LTFRB, too, to undergo seminars or hearings and pay fines separately for the same offense.
“What will become of us?” Magno asked. If a driver has to pay the LTO the required P200,000 ($4,611.50), and the LTFRB another P200,000, for a total of P400,000 ($9,223), what would happen to drivers and small operators? Magno has driven an AUV for public transport since 1999.
He said the current government order is also against operators. Aside from the fines, the vehicle of the driver who was apprehended for a traffic violation would also be suspended. Thus, even the operator would be punished because his or her vehicle could not be used by another driver.
Magno said they have too many issues against items or provisions that the government transport agencies put into the new order.
Asked if they were not involved in any public hearing or consultation during the crafting of the controversial order, Magno expressed shock at the government’s idea of public consultation. He also refused to believe that the leaders of other transport groups such as Zenaida Maranan and Efren De Luna have agreed to the said order, as some reporters told him yesterday.
The order supposedly underwent a public hearing, according to the concerned transport agencies. But the public hearing consisted only of a powerpoint presentation on the new fines, which Magno said the drivers and operators vigorously opposed.
They were promised another hearing, but nothing happened, according to Magno.
Benefits of protests
According to George San Mateo, national president of Piston, the drivers’ action at the Supreme Court yesterday will not be the last.
“We have discussed bigger and stronger actions in the just-concluded Traffic Summit. We only have to wait for the feedback from the different groups that have joined the Summit and the Alliance, before we announce future plans to the public. Other regions have also signified their willingness to launch their own protest actions, whether in coordination with the Alliance based in Manila, or on their own initiative.
New groups have reportedly joined the No to Jao Alliance. These include the Bullriders Club, a motorbikers enthusiasts group, the Quiapo-Pasig AUV Drivers and Operators Association; and DUMPER, Philippine Taxi Drivers Association.
These groups add their voices to current composition of the NO to JAO Alliance, which so far include Piston, Acto, Actoo, Alsa UV, APTBO, ATFOR, Bisig at Lakas, Bulacan Federation JODA, Common TSC, Dialts, Everlasting, Fejodap, IPOUA, Kabalikat, Kabisig, LJODA, Ltop Inc., Luzviminda, Metro Bus, Nildop-Pasig, Paito (Tourist), Pasang Masda, Pboap, Saljodai, Starter, Stop & Go Coalition, Troa, UV SM North, and others.
At their July 5 Traffic Summit, the resource persons included Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares and labor lawyer Remigio Saladero. The two agreed that despite the strength of the merits of any case, only the collective and assertive street actions can prod the government agencies, including the judiciary, to act favourably on the demands of the drivers and the people in general.
Colmenares and Saladero cited as examples the petitions against high rates by Meralco, which the electric company had planned to implement starting 2014, and petitions against the different forms of pork barrel. They noted that a strong current of public opinion created by weekly protests at the Meralco Branches and Head Office, at the Supreme Court, at Luneta Park, and other venues, ensured a favourable ruling of the Supreme Court for the petitioners and the people.
San Mateo, co-convenor of the Alliance formed against exorbitant fines and penalties, said “The Alliance cannot relax and just wait for the High Court to decide when it will grant the much needed relief via the TRO.” He explained that for as long as the new order imposing an increase in fines and penalties is being implemented, drivers and operators are at the mercy of the LTO mobile teams and other traffic enforcers deputized by the LTO.
San Mateo said cases of abuse have been reported to their group. He cited the case of the driver who was given a Temporary Operator’s Permit, or TOP, just because he attached non-working foglights as decoration at the back of his jeepney. His violation: “Motor vehicle operating … with … unauthorized accessories, devices, equipment and parts.” These, even as the jeepney has long been praised for ingenious Pinoy art.
Another driver was given a ticket for allowing a Badjao to “hitch” a ride on his jeepney, among others.
“These cases show the tendency of the traffic enforcer, when armed with an order dispensing excessive fines and penalties, and ordered by their superiors, to abuse the law,” emphasized San Mateo. He warned that cases like these would only increase if the implementation of the Joint Administrative Order is not stopped soon.
Speaking for their groups, Jun Magno of Stop and Go coalition and San Mateo of Piston, both with the NO to JAO Alliance, said they will launch more mass actions against the new joint order by government transport agencies.