Jeepneys file SC pleading in last-ditch effort to stop modernization program


By Chloe Mari A. Hufana

A TRANSPORT group on Monday filed an amended petition before the Supreme Court (SC), asking it to halt the government’s modernization program for the sector, including an April 30 consolidation deadline for jeepney operators and drivers.

“Jeepney drivers have a simple request and that is can we have a temporary restraining order for now until the Supreme Court decides?” Neri J. Colmenares, lawyer for the Pagkakaisa ng mga Samahan ng Tsuper at Operator Nationwide (PISTON), told a news briefing after filing the pleading.

“If franchises get canceled [on April 30], even if we win our petition, can you bring [these] back?”

He also said the Dec. 29 order of the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) had prompted them to file a new petition since the agency required jeepney drivers and operators to join cooperatives. PISTON filed its original lawsuit on Dec. 20.

“That’s why we’re asking the Supreme Court to grant the temporary restraining order,” Mr. Colmenares said. “Is there a major injury for the government if they postpone the implementation of the modernization?”

Jeepney drivers who have not joined cooperatives bewailed the cost of joining one.

Edwin A. Oreña, a jeepney driver and PISTON Camanava spokesman, said a driver must shell out at least P30,000 to be able to join a cooperative.

He added that jeepney drivers frown at cooperatives because they won’t be able to “enjoy what they own” — they must surrender their jeepneys and franchises to their cooperatives.

Mr. Oreña urged the government to expand their options when it comes to joining cooperatives instead of telling them to develop new skills under the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority in case they lose their job as drivers.

“Joining a cooperative means additional expenses for jeepney drivers,” PISTON legal counsel Maria Kristina C. Conti said in Filipino. “Commuters will also bear the brunt of these incurred expenses.”

The minimum fare for a modern jeepney is P15.

The transport group also criticized the government for allegedly failing to discuss these issues with the sector.

Jeepney drivers and operators have until April 30 to join or set up their own cooperatives as part of consolidation efforts.

Jeepney drivers at Monday’s briefing said they plan to continue plying their original routes even at the risk of getting apprehended.

LTFRB on its website said 76% of jeepneys nationwide had yet to consolidate.

PISTON Deputy Secretary-General Ruben G. Baylon said 200,000 drivers and operators would be affected, while 28 million Filipino commuters would suffer as the consolidated franchise take effect.

The transport group is holding a transport strike that started on Monday to fight the modernization program.