The Department of Transportation (DOTr) has just issued a warning to PISTON, a major jeepney organization, that their strikes could have consequences up to and including the cancellation of their members' franchises with the Land Transport Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB).
PISTON and other jeepney organizations have been protesting the implementation of the PUV Modernization Program, an initiative that the organization fears will phase out their means of livelihood. As a result, PISTON has been holding strikes with another one scheduled to take place on December 4 and 5, 2017.
“We have invited PISTON to dialogues, but still they insisted on holding strikes,” said Sec. Tugade in a press release. “Other transport groups sat down with us and we discussed the program together. Why can't PISTON do that? I am positive that when they do, they will understand and they will agree that it is time to overhaul the public transportation system.”
Secretary Arthur Tugade, the head of the DOTr, issued the reminder to jeepney operators that as holders of franchises they have a responsibility to the public. As a result, he has instructed the LTFRB to pursue the cancellation of their franchises. Moreover, he has also instructed the Land Transportation Office (LTO) to cancel their driver's licenses as well.
The DOTr stated that they already have the support of all the other major transport groups in the country including FEJODAP, ACTO, PASANG MASDA, LTOP, ALTODAP, and more. Only PISTON is refusing to cooperate, according to the DOTr.
The statement that the government will penalize jeepney drivers who go on strike prompted the question of its constitutionality, given that all groups have a right to assemble peacefully; something protected by the constitution. DOTr Assistant Secretary Leah Quiambao, who is also an attorney, weighed in on the difference between the right to assembly and the franchise; the latter being a privilege granted by the government.
“To hold a franchise is not a right, but a privilege granted by the state. Among the conditions upon the grand of the franchise is that the PUVs will not abandon their routes/lines and prejudice our commuters,” said Asec. Quiambao in a message group. “Nakalagay po yan sa prankisang binibigay ng LTFRB sa ating mga PUV operators. Hence, 'tigil-pasada' is among the grounds for revokation of franchise.”
“The moment an operator applies and is granted a franchise, he agrees to be bound by the conditions of such franchise and the consequences of violation,” concluded Assistant Secretary Leah Quiambao.