A sinister scheme

"The fate of jeepney drivers remains uncertain."



It might have been Divine Providence, or the authorities were simply reminded of some tenets of the 1987 Constitution that they are reportedly considering allowing jeepney drivers to ply their routes.

The Supreme Law of the Land declares it is the policy of the State to “free the people from poverty through policies that provide adequate social services, promote full employment, a rising standard of living, and an improved quality of life for all.”

This impoverished sector has not received adequate social services. They have been prohibited from earning their livelihood. They have suffered a subhuman standard of living.

I sure hope it is true that the hundreds of thousands of jeepney drivers will be permitted to return as soon as possible, as they are becoming convinced that the Inter-Agency Task Force for Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) has prohibited public utility jeepneys (PUJs) from resuming operations.

Unfortunately, as of this writing, Malacanang could not confirm whether the LTFRB chairman Martin Delgra would indeed greenlight the jeepney operations next week as he was quoted during a Congressional hearing.

To many observers, it has become too obvious that transport authorities, particularly the Land Transportation Franchising Regulatory Board (LTFRB), have been opposing the return of the traditional jeepneys to pave the way for the government’s jeepney modernization program.

I sure hope it is not true. It is such a sinister conspiracy by officials to use COVID-19 as an excuse to keep old jeepneys off the streets, thereby depriving jeepney drivers of their livelihood. Jeepney passengers are less susceptible to transmitting or contracting COVID-19 in non-airconditioned vehicles like the King of the Road.

I would not like to think that the IATF-EID, LTFRB, as well as the Department of Transportation (DOTr) under Sec. Arthur Tugade, will entertain such evil designs. President Duterte will not have any of it!

When Metro Manila and other regions shifted from Modified Enhanced Community Quarantine (MECQ) to General Community Quarantine (GCQ) on June 1st, over a million people went out desperately wanting to return to work. Except for those who have their own vehicles, the majority were left with no means of transportation.

Almost a month since the supposed gradual opening of the economy, there are still barely enough public utility vehicles (PUVs) available on the streets.

Most of the jeepney drivers, over 600,000 of them, did not receive any cash assistance from the first tranche of the P100 billion Social Amelioration Program (SAP).

Like the millions poorest of the poor who did not get the Social Amelioration Cash (SAC), jeepney drivers no longer expect to see any singkong-duling from this program.  

Jeepney drivers and their families have expressed extreme difficulties such that they have resorted to begging on the streets sans their jeepneys.

It is a shame that six jeepney drivers, including a frail 72-year old man, were thrown to jail for begging passers-by and motorists for a spare of money to buy food with.

Lolo Elmer Cordero and his five companions were hardly staging a “protest rally” when policemen pounced on them for violation of quarantine rule against “mass gathering.”

But what they were doing were a far cry from Debold Sinas’ “mañanita” and the “despedida” of the Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) officers in Boracay Island.

Jeepney drivers have families who depend on them for sustenance and children who look forward to going back to school.

It is truly insensitive for the transport authorities to keep them off the streets and deprive them earning barely the minimum wage to support their loved ones.

These officials and the IATF-EID should indeed be guided by Divine Providence.

Topics: Erwin Tulfo , AInter-Agency Task Force for Emerging Infectious Diseases , IATF-EID , public utility jeepneys. PUJ , Land Transportation Franchising Regulatory Board , LTFRB , jeepney modernization program
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