TRANSPORTATION Secretary Arthur Tugade said on Monday he supported the filing of an economic sabotage case against the group of jeepney operators and drivers whose two-day strike against a government fleet modernization plan forced the Philippine Stock Exchange (PSE) to shut down.
The idea was raised by a PSE director, Vivian Locsin, who texted Tugade: “Piston should be charged with economic sabotage. Imagine us losing business today. Change their old jeeps. That’s good for environment.”
Piston, or Pinagkaisang Samahan ng mga Tsuper at Operator Nationwide, claimed to have paralyzed 90 percent of transportation nationwide, and 100 percent in some areas in Metro Manila and Luzon.
In response to Locsin, Tugade described Piston as “selfish and small-minded.”
“We want the Filipino public to be safe and have better transport system. Change is hard but must be done,” Tugade said.
The exchange of text messages was shared by Transportation Undersecretary Cesar Chavez to reporters.
Piston chief George San Mateo claimed success despite the Palace decision to suspend classes and government work on Monday, and vowed to continue the strike for a second day.
Classes and government work resume today, Malacañang said at past 7 p.m. on Monday
Militant labor group Kilusang Mayo Uno and Piston said the Makati, Pasay-Pier, Novaliches-Malinta via General Luis, Malabon-Navotas-Monumento, and Sucat-Evacom routes in Metro Manila were paralyzed.
Also paralyzed were routes in Pampanga, including in San Fernando, Guagua, Bacolor, Mexico, Arayat, Angeles City, Macabebe, Masantol and Minalin.
Transportation in Rizal, Tikling, Binangonan, Antipolo, Taytay and Sta. Lucia to Crossing were 95 percent paralyzed and in Laguna, 90 percent.
Video on the ABS-CBN News Channel showed traffic slowing down in Monumento, Caloocan where protesters gathered.
In Manila, demonstrators occupied the corner of España and Vicente Cruz Streets.
Some 40 protesters held a small rally at Anda Circle in the Port Area. About 20 more protested in front of Puregold Santa Mesa store on Ramon Magsaysay Boulevard.
Minimal effect, says LTFRB
The No to Jeepney Phaseout Coalition claimed that over 90 percent or 225,000 out of the estimated 250,000 jeepney units nationwide participated on the first day of the strike.
San Mateo said the number of participants in Monday’s strike “debunks the government’s intrigues” that only Piston opposed the phaseout program.
Members of Pasang Masda, Alliance of Concerned Transport Organizations (ACTO), Federation of Jeepney Operators and Drivers Associations of the Philippines (Fejodap), and Alliance of Transport Operators and Drivers Association of the Philippines (Altodap) rejected their leaders and joined the strike, he claimed.
However, the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) said “the strike had minimal effect,” affecting less than 1 percent of commuters.
“[Only] 0.011 percent [of the commuters were affected]based on the dispatching of 23 buses serving 1,140 passengers out of the 10 million [passengers]of the jeeps,” LTFRB spokeswoman Aileen Lizada said in a text message.
The government provided free rides to stranded commuters, while private buses served the usual jeepney routes.
Transport network companies Grab and Uber reportedly turned off their usual price surge at 10:30 a.m.
Two 6 x 6 trucks were pre-positioned at Quirino Grandstand to provide free rides, but were largely unused.
“It appears only a few protesters held rallies here,” Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada said in a statement. “And fortunately, there were no reports of passengers getting stranded during the morning rush hours.”
Lizada, who earlier claimed the strike could be part of a destabilization plot, lashed out at the transport groups for involving militant groups in their protest.
“A transport leader said, and I quote, ‘What is happening is like September 1972, before Martial Law’… If they are opposing only the modernization program, why are they talking about martial law?” she said.
“Really, they are trying to infuse [messages]in a very subtle way, which can cause confusion and result in destabilization.”
San Mateo insisted the strike was not part of a destabilization plot against the Duterte administration.
“We’re always for safe, affordable mass transport. The government needs to understand that this is also for the passengers,” San Mateo added.
Simultaneous protests were staged in different areas across Metro Manila to oppose the government’s planned phaseout of jeepney units 15 years or older.
Transport groups claimed the program would lead to the loss of jobs of tens of thousands of jeepney operators and drivers nationwide.
San Mateo said the program would only promote corporatization and benefit the rich. The new jeepney units, he said, would cost up to P1.6 million, which would be too expensive for jeepney operators despite the government’s plan to provide financial assistance through the Land Bank of the Philippines and the Development Bank of the Philippines.
The minimum jeepney fare could also go up to P20 from P8, Piston claimed.
MARY GLEEFER JALEA, JAIME R. PILAPIL AND FRANCIS EARL CUETO