Bayan, former lawmaker ask Supreme Court
Commuters, members of various advocacy groups and a former lawmaker on Monday trooped to the Supreme Court (SC) to ask the tribunal to stop fare increases in Light Rail Transit 1, LRT 2 and Metro Rail Transit 3 (MRT 3) that were implemented on January 4.
Two separate petitions were filed at the High Court by Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) and former Iloilo Rep. Augusto Syjuco.
Named respondents were Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) Secretary Jose Emilio Abaya, MRT 3 Officer-in-Charge Renato San Jose, Light Rail Transit Authority (LRTA) Administrator Honorito Chaneco, Metro Rail Transit Corporation and Light Rail Manila Consortium (LRMC).
The SC was asked to issue a status quo ante order (SQAO) or any injunctive relief that would restore LRT and MRT fare rates to their old level.
In its petition, Bayan said Department Order 2014-014 issued by Abaya “is a patent nullity, the implementation of which is detrimental to public interest.”
The questioned order provides the “distance-based fare scheme using the P11 base fare plus an additional P1 for every succeeding kilometer.”
“There is no available and clear procedure promulgated by the DOTC or any concerned government agency designed to afford an adequate and timely opportunity to question the propriety of the LRT/MRT fare increases,” the group said.
“Abaya, in his capacity as the Secretary of the DOTC, San Jose, in his capacity as the Officer-in-Charge of the MRT 3 office and LRTA acted without jurisdiction and/or committed grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or in excess of their respective jurisdictions,” it added.
Bayan maintained that Abaya has no authority to order the fare increases or exercise quasi-judicial functions similar to those vested in the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board, which approves fare increases and fare rollbacks.
“The Light Rail Transit and the Metro Rail Transit are public services, and are therefore subject to regulation, and their fare rates may not be adjusted unilaterally. Light rail systems operated by respondents LRTA and by MRT 3 Office are common carriers used to convey passengers, and by their nature, they are considered public services that are essential to the daily lives and needs of the community they are serving. As public services, they are subject to regulation, not only as regards their route and the quality of service they offer to the public, but also as regards the manner of fixing the rate of fees that they impose for the use of their services,” it said.
The group added that the DOTC cannot unilaterally increase the rates without prior notice and hearing “and without the prior approval by a regulatory agency, which should look into the propriety of such rates before they can be implemented.”
The petitioners said majority of LRT and MRT riders are low-salaried workers.
Syjuco said the rate adjustments are unconstitutional.
The former lawmaker noted that no public consultations were held before the fare rates were adjusted.
“It is irregular for DOTC to grant these private concessionaires these fare hikes, even without their actually applying for a fare hike, and even without a hearing where they should have presented the bases on why they deserve a fare hike, and the extent of the fare increases,” he added.
Syjuco said it is unfair for commuters to shoulder additional expenses just to raise the railways’ capital.
“That is wrong, unsound and unfair to your customers. When additional capitalization is needed, you sell additional new stocks or bonds,” he added.
The petitions, however, will not be acted upon by the High Court immediately because the tribunal’s first en banc session will be on January 13, 2015.
Bayan secretary general Renato Reyes said more protest actions will be held to show the public’s outrage over the train fare increases.
“Today we fight back… and in the coming days, we will stage mass protest actions to air the people’s outrage over the unjust fare increases. A broad array of groups and individuals have united to challenge the fare hikes before the High Court and seek a temporary restraining order,” he added in a statement.
Bayan called on commuters and taxpayers to resolutely oppose the recent fare increases for MRT 3, LRT 1 and LRT 2 , saying these “added burdens, treacherously announced and implemented during the holidays, are without legal basis and are patently anti-commuter.”
Reyes said President Benigno Aquino 3rd’s “Great Train Robbery” will victimize the 1.3 million daily rail commuters. The increases are a significant 50 percent to 87 percent more than previous maximum fares.
The petitioners include former lawmaker Teodoro Casiño, former LRTA administrator Melquiades Robles, Kilusang Mayo Uno chairman Elmer Labog, RILES Network spokesman Sammy Malunes, Courage chairman Ferdinand Gaite, Anakbayan chairman Vencer Crisostomo, Alliance of Health Workers president Jossel Ebesate, Kadamay chairman Gloria Arellano, businessman Herman Tiu Laurel, Myrleon Peralta, SSS union president Amorsolo Competente, commuter advocate Elvira Medina, commuters Maria Donna Grey Miranda and Angelo Villanueva Suarez of TREN, labor leaders Jose Sonny Matula of Federation of Free Workers and David Diwa of National Labor Union, journalist James Bernard Relativo of TREN and Giovanni Tapang of Agham.
The Riles Laan sa Sambayanan (RILES) Network also called on MRT and LRT commuters to voice out their protest by clapping their hands while falling in line at the ticket queues and inside the train stations.
“The riding public has spoken: We will stop Aquino’s treacherous and burdensome fare hikes! The Aquino administration has implemented the fare hikes behind commuters’ backs and amid widespread opposition and protest,” Sammy Malunes, the group’s spokesman, said.