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Manibela calls off Palace meeting, begins strike today

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The leader of the transport group Manibela on Sunday called off a meeting in Malacañang a day before a planned strike, claiming there were corrupt officials involved that he would eventually name.

“There are people who do not want to resolve [the issue] since their corruption might get exposed,” said Mar Valbuena, president of the Malayang Alyansa ng Bus Employees at Laborers in an interview with radio dzBB. “I will name them very soon. They are actually corrupt.”

Manibela earlier announced they would go on strike Oct. 16 over allegations of corruption in the Land Transportation, Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB), in a move that could affect 600 routes in Luzon.

But the so-called Magnificent 7composed of Pasang Masda, Alliance of Transport Operators and Drivers Association of the Philippines, Pinagkaisang Samahan ng mga Tsuper at Opereytors Nationwide, Alliance of Concerned Transport Organization, Federation of Jeepney Operators and Drivers Association of the Philippines, Stop and Go, and Liga ng Transportasyon at Operators—have rejected Valbuena’s call to go on strike.

The Manibela leader said his group would strike anyway.

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“This jeepney strike will continue for as long as our hungry stomachs can bear,” he said in Filipino.

Valbuena said about 1,000 public utility vehicles (PUVs) are expected to gather in Mendiola, Manila to protest a transport modernization program and corruption.

A former employee of the LTFRB, Jeff Tumbado, earlier claimed agency chairman Teofilo Guadiz III had told him that some officials of the Department of Transportation and Malacanang received large sums of grease money in exchange for franchises, new routes, special permits and other documents.

He also implicated two lawmakers.

But days later, Tumbado, in a notarized affidavit, recanted his accusations, saying they were “borne out of impulse, irrational thinking, judgment and poor decision-making.”

Valbuena said he learned that someone who could have been involved in the corruption at the LTFRB tried to stop the meeting at the Palace.

“I know who he is. But I would not yet name him,” he added.

The National Bureau of Investigation had summoned Tumbado to attend an investigation today at its office on Quezon Avenue in Quezon City.

Tumbado told the Manila Standard that he is willing to participate in the probe, but said he would not attend the NBI inquiry on Monday because he was preparing for a congressional hearing on Tuesday.

He said his lawyer Pearl Campanella would show up at the NBI to represent him.

Also on Sunday, the Presidential Communications Office released a list of provinces, cities and universities who suspended their classes for the nationwide transport strike today, October 16.

The following universities and colleges in Manila and other neighboring provinces suspended their face-to-face classes: Adamson University, De La Salle University-Manila, University of the East – Manila and Caloocan, National University, all branches and campuses of the Polytechnic University of the Philippines, San Beda University – Manila and Rizal, University of Santo Tomas – Manila, Lyceum of the Philippines University – Manila and Our Lady of Fatima University in Pampanga and Laguna.

TRANSPORT STRIKE ON, BUT GOV’T VOWS NO PARALYSIS. Department of Interior and Local Government Secretary Benhur Abalos, Land Transportation Office head Vigor Mendoza, and Metropolitan Manila Development Authority chairman Romando Artes join hands with members of the Magnificent 7 transport group network in ensuring the public there will be no transport paralysis today (Oct. 16, 2023) despite the nationwide strike led by the Manibela group. Manny Palmero

Local government units (LGU’s) from various provinces and cities also declared no classes on all levels, public or private; Pampanga from Oct. 16-17, Santa Rosa Laguna, Lingayen Pangasinan, Angeles City from October 16-17, Cabuyao City and Marikina City.

Meanwhile, Dagupan City in Pangasinan suspended face-to-face classes for public elementary and high schools, and in Binmaley, Pangasinan, classes are suspended from preschool to senior high schools both public and private.

Interior and Local Government Secretary Benjamin Abalos Jr., however, played down the scheduled strike, saying 95 percent of transport groups will continue to operate.

Abalos made this announcement after meeting with the Magnificent 7 and the UV Express Group.

Abalos said they discussed other matters aside from the strike, including concerns over “kotong” or bribery.

“We will create a technical working group to address the issues being raised by our transport group leaders,” he said.

“Our President is happy with our partnership because we have discussed a lot and we see the importance of dialogue,” he added.

Still, Abalos said preparations were made to cope with the transport strike.

A multi-agency command center will be set up at the New MMDA Head Office in Pasig City to monitor the situation during the transport strike.

Vehicles are positioned at strategic areas and are ready to be dispatched as necessary.

Acting chairman of the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) Don Artes also played down the impact of the transport strike.

“The government will not be held hostage by people whose only self-interest is being promoted,” he said.

Meanwhile, leaders of the transport groups who met with Abalos thanked the secretary for his commitment to address their concerns.

Obet Martin of Pasang Masda said their groups are one with the government in pushing for transport reforms nationwide.

“We call on all our members across the country, we don’t want to torture our riders. We will not participate in the strike tomorrow. Instead, we are united with the government in the development of transportation in our country,” Martin said.

Transport Secretary Jaime Bautista, meanwhile, said his department has contingency plans in place in case the strike paralyzes transportation in some areas.

Bautista added that the agency coordinated with the Philippine National Police (PNP), MMDA, Highway Patrol Group, Land Transportation Office, LTFRB, Inter-Agency Council for Traffic, Philippine Coast Guard as well as other local government agencies to mitigate the impact of the strike.

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