Drivers of the country’s public utility jeepneys on Tuesday asked the Supreme Court to nullify government’s discriminatory issuances governing their operation despite the easing up of lockdowns in many areas arising from coronavirus pandemic.
In a petition filed by the officers and members of the National Confederation of Transport Workers Union, the SC was asked to annul 16 government issuances that affected PUJ operation in the country.
The petitioners said that the government, through the Land Transportation Franchising Regulatory Board, the Department of Transportation and the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases, prohibited petitioners from plying the roads on all areas under the Enhanced Community Quarantine in March 2020.
“Even as the government eased quarantine measures and gradually allowed other public utility vehicles back on the road traditional PUJs were placed last in priority—or not at all,” they said.
“To make matters worse, the issuances of respondents showed an obvious preference to modernized jeepneys even though petitioners aver that no substantial distinction exists between modernized and traditional jeepneys,” they added.
According to them, these events “snatched the petitioners’ right to work for at least four (4) months -- and counting.
“Traditional jeepney drivers are fed up with the state’s inconsistent standards and issuances regarding public transportation,” they added.
Named respondents in the petition were Health Secretary Francisco T. Duque III as chairperson of the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases, Cabinet Secretary Karlo Alexei B. Nograles, Martin B. Delgra III as chairperson of the Land Transportation Franchising Regulatory Board and Department of Transportation Secretary Arthur P. Tugade.
The petitions also sought for the conduct of oral arguments on their petition so they can amplify their grievances.
Sought to be nullified for alleged violations of the Constitution are LTFRB Board Resolution No. 060 Series of 2020, LTFRB Memorandum Circular No. 2020-019, LTFRB Memorandum Circular No. 2020-023, -023A, -023B, and -023C, LTFRB Memorandum Circular No. 2020-026, LTFRB Memorandum Circular No. 2020-029 and -029A, LTFRB Memorandum Circular No. 2020-036, LTFRB Memorandum Circular No. 2020-037, LTFRB Memorandum Circular No. 2020-040, LTFRB Memorandum Circular No. 2020-041, LTFRB Memorandum Circular No. 2020-043, LTFRB Memorandum Circular No. 2020 045 LTFRB Memorandum Circular No. 2020-046, DOTr; Guidelines dated May 29, 2020, IATF-EID Omnibus Guidelines on the
Implementation of Community Quarantine in the Philippines dated April 29, 2020, and IATF-EID Omnibus Guidelines on the Implementation of Community Quarantine in the Philippines dated May 15, 2020.
The petitioners told the SC magistrates that “the respondents’ actions of excluding traditional PUJs when all other PUVs were allowed, including modernized jeepneys, run contrary to the equal protection clause of the Constitution.”
Meanwhile, former National Commission of Indigenous Peoples chair Eugenio Insigne also asked the SC to stop the Office of the President and IATF from implementing quarantine measures on senior citizens.
The petitioners said that the measures, which they deemed “cruel and inhuman,” does not have legal or constitutional basis and instead violates the rights of senior citizens.
The days on earth of senior citizens are numbered. Every moment is precious,” he said.
“It is the height of injustice for senior citizens who have worked and sacrificed a lot for our country to be arbitrarily deprived of their right to enjoy life in the twilight of their lives,” Insigne stressed.
In a related development, AAMBIS-OWA Party-list Rep. Sharon Garin and chairperson of the House Committee on Economic Affairs chairman, wants to resume regular public transportation services, saying that such is a vital step toward economic recovery.
“Public transportation is a major economic lifeline that allows businesses to gradually resume operations by providing sustainable mobility for their manpower,” Garin said.
But because of the Coronavirus Disease 2019 pandemic, Garin said the government should ensure that “scientific, calibrated, and pragmatic health protocols are in place to protect the health of commuters, most of them ordinary wage earners.”
In addition, Garin said enough public transport units should be fielded to avoid overcrowding in train stations as well as bus and jeepney stops.
She explained that people throw social distancing out of the window when there is a dearth in the number of public transportation units plying the routes because of the rush to reach their destinations.
Crowding and longer queues increase the commuters’ risk of contracting the Chinese virus, she also said.
In pushing for the fielding of more public transport units, Garin cited “promising findings in Japan and France where links of new Covid-19 clusters to public transport remain zilch.”
She maintained, however, that this was made possible by avoiding the overlap of the Three Cs: Closed and Crowded spaces, and Close contact exchanges.
As the chairperson of the House economic affairs committee, Garin reaffirmed her support for the transportation sector and reminded that
it is integrated and interconnected with all businesses. She added that the sector remains the primary and most important component in reviving the economy.
Garin said that the balance between saving lives and livelihood will not materialize unless the problems choking the economy are addressed.