Drivers and operators led by PISTON trooped to the Senate in time for another hearing on the deals of  Pharmally with the government.

The group wanted to bring attention to another ‘anomaly’: why the Department of Transportation (DOTr), Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB), and President Rodrigo Duterte’s administration did not release cash aid amounting to P5.58 billion at the height of the pandemic.

The said cash aid was part of the service contracting program (SCP) flagged by the Commission on Audit and revealed that the LTFRB only spent P59 million (1%) or only a meager amount of the total P5.58 billion funds which are supposedly allocated for the beneficiary program for drivers and operators during the pandemic.

Under SCP, it pays public utility vehicle (PUV) drivers to provide free rides in Metro for medical front liners, authorized persons outside of residence (APORs), and essential employees through the Libreng Sakay Program.

“Sa gitna ng pandemya, aabot na sa ika-19 buwan at nakalockdown pa rin ang karamihan sa kabuhayan ng mga drayber at operator, na halos walang natatanggap na tulong o ayuda mula sa pamahalaan. Ang ginagawa pa ng LTFRB ay pinagpapasapasahan ang sektor ng transportasyon sa ibang ahensya,” PISTON chairperson Mody Floranda  decried.

[Amid the pandemic, it has been 19 months and most of the livelihoods of drivers and operators are still locked down, with almost no help or assistance from the government. What the LTFRB is still doing is to pass the transportation sector’s concerns to another agency.]

He shared that when they asked for their cash aid from the LTFRB, the agency referred them to the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD). The DSWD eventually sent them back to LTFRB, which appeared to Floranda as though it had no control with regard to the budget distribution under SCP.

Floranda added that it is not surprising for the LTFRB to deny criticisms on the 99% of the SCP budget that was flagged, given how it pushes for other anti-driver policies such as the impending jeepney modernization, a program intending to phaseout the traditional jeepneys. The DOTr and LTFRB have maintained it is not a phaseout program.

“Patuloy na sinasalaula ng LTFRB para itulak ang bogus at huwad na modernization na ang tanging layunin ay para pahawahan sa mga malalaking negosyante’t kapitalista nang sa gayo’y sila ang humawak ng moda ng transportasyon,” Floranda added.

[The LTFRB continues to denigrate to push for bogus and false modernization whose sole purpose is to sell to big businessmen and capitalists so that they can take control of the mode of transportation.]

He further denounced DOTr’s Department Order No. 2017-011 or Omnibus Franchising Guidelines (OFG) which aimed for the planning and identification of public road transport services and on the issuances of franchises.

According to PISTON, the OFG implementation will certainly result in a massive loss of livelihood of more than 250,000 small-scale jeepney operators especially so that the DOTr and LTFRB push the modernization program while taking advantage of the pandemic to gradually eliminate traditional jeepneys from the streets.

“Anumang uri tayo ng transportasyon, tayo ay magkaisa. Walang magtatanggol sa ating karapatan at kabuhayan kundi ang ating pagsasama-sama. Kailangan imbestigahan ng Senado kung nasaan ang 5.58 bilyon kasama pa ang proposed budget ng DOTr. Panawagan pa rin natin ang mariing pagtutol sa nakaambang jeepney phaseout,” Floranda said.

[Whatever type of transportation we have, let us be united. No one will defend our rights and livelihood but our unity. The Senate needs to investigate where the P 5.58 billion is including the DOTr’s 2022 proposed budget. We also express our strong condemnation to the impending jeepney phaseout]

Neglect and phaseout

“Ano ba ang silbi ng gobyerno, papatay ba o magsisilbi sa mamamayan?” asked 72-year-old Elmer Cordero.

[What is the use of the government, is it to kill or to serve the people?]

Cordero was among the six jeepney drivers, known as PISTON 6, arrested June 2 last year after their #BalikPasada protest in Monumento, Caloocan City. They were accused of violating the physical distancing rule.

“Kasama ako sa inaresto noon na nananawagan sa sapat na ayuda. Ngunit ngayon, matanda na ako at naghihirap pa rin hanggang ngayon. Ni hindi pa rin kami makabalik sa trabaho,”

[I was among those arrested then who called for adequate aid. But now, I am old and still suffering to this day. We still can’t go back to work.]

He scored that there are many drivers who died due to COVID-19, but said that it is continuing neglect and the jeepney phaseout that will eventually lead to their deaths due to hunger.

“Pakinggan naman ninyo ang aming karaingan,” he said.

[Please listen to our grievances.]

On September 29, the House of Representatives approved the proposed P151.34 billion budget of the DOTr for the Fiscal Year 2022.


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