Thursday, December 14, 2017
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Sisyphus’ Lament

Grab, Uber can’t violate rules no one can follow

JAKARTA — “We cannot have one rule regarding colorum for [Transport Network Vehicle Services (TNVS)] and another rule for… bus, UV express, taxi and PUJ,” declared Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) Chair Martin Delgra III. But how can Grab and Uber be punished over rules that are impossible to follow?

In 2015, LTFRB chair Winston Ginez legalized TNVS, the drivers or contractors and the apps that dispatch them. In July 2016, the LTFRB suddenly suspended processing of TNVS certificates of public convenience (CPCs). This was “pending review of existing policies.”

The “review” was so thorough that the halt was indefinite and still in effect today, a year later.

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Grab and Uber are legal, but drivers are not—and have no way to be. TNVS CPCs are valid for one year and expired during the “review.” Thus, last July 11, Grab and Uber each paid a P5 million fine.

Given this chaos, how can one name a driver without a CPC a lawbreaker — LTFRB precisely refused to process them!

This recalls the “no plate, no travel” policy right before Easter weekend in 2015, when many plates were not yet released (“Is LTO’s ‘no plate, no travel’ rule unconstitutional?” 4/6/15).

First, consider due process. A law must be implemented justly and fairly. LTFRB cannot revoke TNVS CPCs through a vague, indefinite suspension. The public cannot even challenge a repeal never announced.

And LTFRB confiscates people’s jobs or means of transport without due process.

I had a memorable conversation one Uber ride from Ortigas to the Mall of Asia. I rode with a security guard who got a car loan and drove for Uber. He worked even longer hours to pay off the loan, but was proud to finally own his business.

The LTFRB violates due process and basic fairness by suddenly depriving the  former guard of livelihood, leaving him unable to pay his loan.

Even arbitrary interference with business models violates due process. Why ban surge pricing when taxi drivers demand extra fares? Why set minimum hours for drivers and destroy the ride-sharing concept?

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This is not abstract philosophy. In the 2009 White Light case, our Supreme Court struck down a Manila ordinance prohibiting motel room rentals for less than 12 hours, to discourage “short time.” It decried a measure that “needlessly restrains the operation of the businesses of the petitioners as well as restricting the rights of their patrons without sufficient justification.”

Second, consider our Constitution’s principles.

Art. II, Sec. 20: “The State recognizes the indispensable role of the private sector, encourages private enterprise and provides incentives to needed investments.”

Art. XIV, Sec. 12: “The State shall regulate the transfer and promote the adaptation of technology from all sources for the national benefit. It shall encourage the widest participation of private groups, local governments and community-based organizations in the generation and utilization of science and technology.”

Art. XII, Sec. 6: “The use of property bears a social function, and all economic agents shall contribute to the common good.”

The LTFRB swore to uphold each line, written in the blood of patriots.

Third, consider the economics of regulation. We cannot have laws for the sake of having them. As I wrote in “Uber: clash of law vs common sense” (11/14/15), the apps deliver accident-free, mugging-free, hygienic and odorless service without regulation. Clearly, LTFRB regulation has negative economic value. We must abolish the LTFRB, not the apps.

The lesson is to never believe that law must halt the march of science or undermine common sense.

Fortunately, it is no longer up to the LTFRB’s erratic style. Sen. Grace Poe, Senate committee on public services chair, has called for formal legislation on TNVS and will hold a hearing on Aug. 3.

Poe might have a fourth mindset: Laws, like technology, evolve. Recall the movie “With Honors”: “The beauty of the Constitution is that it makes no set law other than faith in the wisdom of ordinary people to govern themselves.”

React: oscarfranklin.tan@yahoo.com.ph, Twitter @oscarfbtan, facebook.com/OscarFranklinTan.

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TAGS: grab, LTFRB, Oscar Franklin Tan, Sisyphus’ Lament, TNCs, TNVS, transportation network companies, Uber
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