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Saturday, April 13, 2024

Jeepney owners ask High Court to stop PUV program

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Jeepney drivers and operators on Wednesday petitioned the Supreme Court to stop the government from implementing its Public Utility Vehicle Modernization Program (PUVM).

In its petition, the striking transport group Piston asked the Court to issue a temporary restraining order of a writ of preliminary injunction to prevent the Department of Transportation (DOTr) and the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB), whose heads were named respondents, from carrying out their orders and circulars.

The PUVMP lays down the process for the mandatory consolidation of individual operators under transport cooperatives and corporations and the issuance of new franchises in favor of these entities as part of the PUVMP.

These orders would pave the way for the eventual phaseout of jeepneys starting Jan. 1, 2024, the petitioners said.

Piston was represented by its chairman, Mody Floranda. He was joined by petitioners Bayan Muna party-list coordinator Gaylord Despuez, PARA-Advocates for Inclusive Transport member Edrich Samonte, No to PUV Phaseout Coalition of Panay member Elmer Forro, and Kmyut spokesperson Ma. Flora Cerna.

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The petitioners argued that the orders and circulars violate the constitutional provisions that guarantee freedom of association, right to due process, right to equal protection of laws, right against unreasonable seizures and the right to gainful employment and livelihood.

They added that the orders are an invalid exercise of police power and a usurpation of legislative prerogative.

Lawyer Diane Azores, whose father is a jeepney driver, will lead a group of lawyers who volunteered to provide legal assistance to the petitioners.

Named respondents were DOTr Secretary Jaime Bautista and LTFRB Chairman Teofilo Guadiz.

The petitioners argued that the orders and circulars are overly broad and infringe the constitutional freedom of association as they force the drivers and operators to join an organization or cooperative.

The Supreme Court, the petitioners said, has repeatedly said the right to join an association carries with it the right not to join.

They said the order mandating the consolidation of franchise violated the Cooperative Code of the Philippines and the Revised Corporation Code.

They said the government orders and circulars are “oppressive, overreaching and confiscatory” and would hurt the livelihood of drivers and operators, and even of commuters.

They cited a 2020 study showing the price of modern PUJs ranging from P1.4 million to P1.6 million per unit in 2017. However, by 2020, the price ballooned to between P2.5 million and P2.6 million, they said.

“The high unit prices translate to high amortization payments and compounded interests, thus, imposing an enormous financial burden on PUV operators and drivers,” the petitioners said.

The petitioners also argued that the said orders and circulars exceeded the DOTr and LTFRB’s authority since the PUVMP is not backed by a law passed by Congress.

They said prohibiting about 68,000 jeepneys from servicing their routes next year would result in longer lines and longer waiting times for commuters.

“Worse, the scarcity of public transport could result in more expensive fares for taxis and TNVS like Grab. Worse, more people will be forced to buy second-hand cars and motorcycles resulting in heavier traffic and carbon emission in urban areas,” they said.

In other developments:

* The Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) said there is no need to lift its number coding scheme during the holidays despite the ongoing transport strike because the traffic situation remains “manageable.” The number coding scheme bars vehicles, depending on the last number of their license plate, on EDSA and other thoroughfares during the hours of 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.

* The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) and the Special Action and Intelligence Committee for Transportation (SAICT) have been deployed to assist the MMDA in managing the high volume of vehicles on the road during the holidays. The DOTr sent at least 200 people to arrest motorists using the exclusive bus lane along EDSA, and to help regulate traffic in other parts of Metro Manila. MMDA Chairman Romando Artes reported a 15 percent increase in vehicle volume during afternoon rush hour from 5:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. With Joel E. Zurbano

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