“It just goes to show that this administration is hell-bent on pursuing the interests of his bosses. And I’m not talking about the Filipino people, but the capitalists who run the MRTC and LRMC.” – Train Riders Network (TREN)
By MARYA SALAMAT
MANILA – Petitioners against the increase in LRT and MRT fares expressed outrage, disappointment and disgust over the Supreme Court decision today (January 13) not to grant a temporary stay on the train fare hikes. Since Jan. 4, fares were increased almost double in the LRT and MRT.
Anakpawis Representative Fernando Hicap said “The Supreme Court in this case made a big mistake siding with the government and their corporate cohorts who will benefit from the MRT and LRT fare increase.”
Aside from Anakpawis, various commuter groups that include TREN (Train Riders Network), the RILES Network, and Bagong Alyansang Makabayan, who all have been critical of the fare hike and the varied ways in which the train systems in the capital are being privatized asserted that the hike is “criminal, illegal and immoral.”
Hicap insisted that the real aim in the fare hike “is to make profit for Pres. Aquino’s favored business partners who included his uncle Danding Cojuangco, the Ayala’s, Manny Pangilinan and his other election benefactors.” These businessmen control the conglomerates behind the MRTC and LRMC.
Train Riders Network (TREN) spokesperson James Relativo described the Supreme Court decision as “loathsome” because he said it means the SC has approved “the great robbery.”
The group also hit the actions of President Benigno Aquino III who continuously defended the hike. “It just goes to show that this administration is hell-bent on pursuing the interests of his bosses. And I’m not talking about the Filipino people, but the capitalists who run the MRTC and LRMC,” Relativo said.
The Metro Rail Transit Corp. (MRTC) owns the facilities of the MRT-3 due to a built-lease-transfer agreement. The Light Rail Manila Consortium (LRMC), meanwhile bagged last year the contract to build and operate an extension project for the LRT-1 which also resulted in the privatization of the LRT.
The opponents of LRT and MRT fare hike have also questioned the authority of the Department of Transportation and Communication (DOTC) in deciding on the fare hike. Last week, in a congressional hearing, it was confirmed the department didn’t have any authority to increase the train fares.
A setback, but fight goes on
Despite being disappointed by the SC decision which did not stop the MRT and LRT fare hikes, critics vow to continue their opposition to the hike and to the privatization of the train systems.
In a statement while awaiting the SC decision, Bayan said SC’s non-issuance of a TRO would greatly impact commuters for months to come.
“It would be a victory for government abandonment and private profiteering,” Renato Reyes Jr., secretary general of Bayan, one of the petitioners, said in a statement. He added that the fight will continue, as the public needs to become aware of the damage wrought by privatization on mass transport.
Bayan had hoped the SC would grant a TRO (temporary restraining order) as it would have kept up with the spirit of the times. This is in relation, he said, to the Pope visit and the reminder inspired by the “People’s Pope” such as “the need to take the side of the poor and to place people above profits.”
Anakpawis Rep. Hicap appealed to commuters to not be deterred by the ‘setback’ posed by the SC decision and to continue the protest “against the Aquino administration’s offensive on train commuters.”