One of my favorite taxi stories has the cabbie asking his potential fare, as they all do: “Where to?”
When the cab-hailer says where he’s going, the driver says no go. The passenger, who had been refused by choosy cab drivers several times already, jumps into the taxi just the same.
“Okay, you tell me where you want to go,” he tells the driver. “That’s where we’re going.”
What happens when a government agency forgets that it should serve the people above all? You get the current Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board, that’s what.
I don’t understand why LTFRB, headed now by one Martin Delgra, insists on making life difficult for people instead of helping ease the pain and the hassle of their daily commute. But by going after ride-sharing apps Grab and Uber, which are reputed to have 50,000 vehicles providing a basic service that the government has not been providing, that’s exactly what Delgra and his fellow bureaucrats are doing.
LTFRB is telling us where we want to go, which is not where we’re headed. But I’ll be damned if I’ll let them take me there without raising all the hell I possibly can.
Delgra and his fellow fat-cat LTFRB bureaucrats, who probably tool around the city in government-provided cars with government-paid drivers, still cannot comprehend the problem. Grab and Uber have stepped in where the public transportation system has abjectly failed; for this, according to LTFRB, they must be punished.
Of course, Delgra and his brain-dead officials don’t put it that way. They make the case for safety and accountability, for protecting the riding public from themselves and the ride-sharing fleet that they willingly patronize, never mind if riders pay a bit more for the service they feel they deserve.
But everyone who has tried to get a cab in Metro Manila, especially during rush hour or when there’s a downpour, knows that the reverse is true. The public has been victimized for so long by the taxi drivers that LTFRB is hell-bent on protecting that they will not take this effrontery sitting down.
It’s time to send Delgra, a Davao-based lawyer who served on the legal team of President Rodrigo Duterte before he was appointed with the very first batch of officials named by the new president in May 2016, this simple message: Hell, no, we won’t go!
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Since LTFRB seems hell-bent on imposing the law on Grab and Uber, though the heavens fall, perhaps it would help to look at how the agency has, over the years, regulated the bus companies, the jeepney operators and yes, the taxi companies. Where do Delgra and all of his people find the chutzpah to go after these app-based services, when they can’t even solve the old and very deep-seated problems of “colorum” vehicles, drug use among public utility drivers, robberies and rapes and homicides in transit, trip-cutting, smoke-belching and all the other wonderful stuff that those who proudly carry their government-given franchises have perpetrated for decades?
As for the government that LTFRB represents, why can’t it fix the commuter trains, solve the traffic mess, build more highways and streets or even remove illegally parked vehicles and all those who have taken over the sidewalks? Why fixate on bringing down a solution that the government did nothing to bring about?
I understand that government must regulate and protect, but why can’t it do so without harming the people, especially since it has done next to nothing to help them? Finally, has Delgra gone mad or is he just a total idiot?
At this point, my own facility with words fails me. So I have to run to a more articulate friend to provide them, specifically Trixie Cruz Angeles, who posted this on Facebook yesterday:
“Before Uber and Grab, hailing cabs was a lesson in humility where one begs the driver to please, please, pretty please take me there (wherever ‘there’ is) and for a half a minute this guy has the absolute power over whether or not you show up late for work. Or school. Or your date. Or appointment. Or to donate a kidney.
“And even more, cab drivers also can, like the gods of yore, decide whether or not you will pay only an arm or an arm and a leg and your first-born child, depending on his whim for the duration of the trip. And when he utters those dreaded words, ‘Naku, traffic,’ you begin to wonder how much profit they make if you sell them your blood.
“Yet we understand the need for rules. And the need to protected from these nasty, nasty Uber and Grab drivers in their execrable dilapidated junk heaps. Pass the sarcasm, I don’t think I’m using a heavy enough dose.
“So I hope Uber and Grab get the meanest lawyers this side of the Pacific, who can smile sweetly while hosing down the fog that surrounds the gods in LTFRB.
“And I hope they use flamethrowers.”