PISTON’s San Mateo and his student sympathizers

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EMETERIO SD. PEREZ

DRIVERS of public utility jeepneys (PUJ) and their officers, led by a certain George San Mateo, call their group PISTON, which stands for Pinagkaisang Samahan ng mga Tsuper at Operator Nationwide. They don’t want the government’s jeepney modernization program, which seeks to replace the aging and unsafe jeepneys still around, but to them would involve the additional expense of buying a new vehicle.

PISTON and its supporters, particularly the rich kids among the students who join their rallies, must be thinking, why should they care about the safety of their passengers? After all, only the ordinary workers and their poor children patronize public transport.

Apparently, the primary concern of PISTON and its member drivers are their daily take-home income, after deducting from the day’s revenue the share of their operators, if they don’t own the PUJs they drive.
How about the taxes due the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR)?

San Mateo and his PISTON should not forget their duty as citizens. If they have the right to inconvenience the poor, they also have obligations. Should the government tolerate the protest rallies by San Mateo and his group, who should be told that the government builds roads funded by taxes that income earners pay the BIR?


Safer ride

Some students even support San Mateo and his association in staging their protests along the public roads of Metro Manila. What an irony that PISTON’s sympathizers among students even joined the activist drivers in denouncing the government, which only wants a safer ride for the commuting public.

Why should these students even think of taxes as a government tool to raise money when their unexplained sympathy goes to PISTON alone and the association’s members?

It seems the San Mateo-led PISTON and these students do not care at all if the PUJs on our roads are dilapidated. To them, perhaps it is enough that they have the freedom to protest any of the government’s impositions on their group. Some of these students look too rich to be seen riding in old and aging PUJs, and surely go to their elite schools in chauffeur-driven, air-conditioned cars.

PUJs for the poor only

Have they thought about the ordinary students or the really poor ones among them? Perhaps to these sympathizers, the important thing is that they are able to protest this government initiative—any government move for that matter, even if it is to ensure the safety of the riding public.

Like their fellow activists who are members of the Kalipunan ng Damayang Mahihirap (Kadamay), PISTON member-drivers seem to want everything in this world for free. Like the Kadamay members who had taken over the vacant houses built by the government for soldiers as part of their benefits, the PISTON member-drivers showed an appetite for the free use of roads and hatred of paying income taxes.

Like their student sympathizers, these PUJ drivers love driving but don’t respect the designated loading and unloading zones. They stop for passengers anywhere along the streets, particularly in Metro Manila. The same students who commiserate with the plight of these “poor” drivers know how to assert their right as Filipino citizens but ignore their obligations.

Why tolerate the PUJ drivers’ continued violation of traffic rules? The scenes last Monday, Dec. 4, as reported by media, were proof of their defiance of the government. The government is justified in protecting the public from getting hurt or even maimed by any of these protesters.

Taxing PUJ drivers

It is the duty of the BIR to go after income earners who don’t pay taxes. If this is so, it should include the PUJ drivers in its drive to improve tax collections. This is the only way the government could effectively and efficiently equalize tax collections. Tax every income earner accordingly.

If it would not be an incursion into BIR’s domain, Due Diligencer could only make a few suggestions. The government should audit PISTON and its PUJ drivers and operators. It should also audit their income to determine if they are paying the correct taxes. If they don’t pay at all, the BIR should start making them pay now, not tomorrow.

The question is how the BIR would include the PUJ drivers and their operators in its tax collection efforts. Why doesn’t the BIR tap the Commission on Audit (COA) to audit PISTON and the PUJ drivers to see if they are paying the correct taxes?

Due Diligencer’s take

If the public would care to google “PUJ drivers” for more information about them, they would find so many support measures taken by the government for them. One of these is the proposed P2.26-billion subsidy for jeepney drivers and their operators.

Due Diligencer is not against such funding. However, the government should take into account the BIR’s tax campaign to increase its tax collection. The income of PUJ drivers and their operators should be audited to determine if they are paying taxes at all. Who among them realize that public service is not totally free? For their information, taxes paid by either daily or monthly income earners are used to build new roads and repair or rehabilitate old ones.

By the way, will the BIR people tell the taxpayers – those who religiously remit taxes due the government – who among the PISTON member-drivers have their own tax identification number? Just asking.

esdperez@gmail.com

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