Looking at the transport strike through the lens of jeepney drivers | Inquirer Opinion

Looking at the transport strike through the lens of jeepney drivers

/ 04:05 AM March 13, 2023

As an assistant professor in Manila, I have to take three jeepney rides from our home to the university. There is no doubt that I was one of the countless people gravely affected by the recent transport strike. But I would like to state unhesitatingly my full support for it, and my sincerest solidarity with our poor drivers and desperate operators. I call upon the public to view this struggle through the lens of jeepney drivers compelled to resort to this action by our utterly stratified society. Their situation is like that of the working class forced to go on strike due to the injustices committed by their greedy employers.

I would also like to call out the irresponsible pronouncement of Vice President Sara Duterte who claimed that the transport strike is “communist-inspired,” which shows her naïveté and unforgivable ignorance about the whole issue. Which individual or group would want to go on strike and forego their income if there is still a way out? The brutal truth is that this transport strike is the direct result of the inutile and perverse capitalist system. Instead of the communists inspiring the strike, it is this action that inspires the activists, the revolutionaries, the socialists, communists, etc.


Let us not kid or fool ourselves. The strike is a protest against the jeepney phaseout plan, whose true motive is “corporate phase-in.” The real intention is to allow big players, corporations, and conglomerates to enter the business and kill off competition from small players. I do not buy the government’s pathetic argument that says the jeepney modernization scheme is meant to save the environment. Why not just help the drivers and operators convert their engines to run on environmentally friendly fuel? Further, if the government is sincere in its alleged love of the environment, then why the hell does it allow mining in Sibuyan Island?

I am not against modernization per se. The only permanent thing in this world is change, after all. But I am against the government’s neglect of its obligation to provide and regulate public transport, and uphold public interest over that of private corporations. Further, any change to an existing system—whether it be in education, administration of justice, industry, and so on—must be done with enough lead time to allow the stakeholders to adjust to the transition. It would be immoral and extremely unjust to expect people to keep abreast of the latest trends and technology without support from the government. As in education, even if 97 percent of students are doing well, there is no justification to leave the remaining 3 percent behind.


Today, even if some of our farmers are already using modern technology to till their fields, we are not slaughtering carabaos en masse. Similarly, why should we give up our equally beloved jeepneys which, besides being the repository of our memories, have also become distinctive symbols of our culture and of who we are as a people? They’re part of our postwar history and popular culture. This iconic vehicle also shows our creativity and resilience. Instead of phasing them out, why not improve them and make the design and engine conform to the environmental standards that the government envisions? Modernization here should be equated with co-creation and co-design.

In summary, I signify my solidarity with this transport strike because societal progress is worthless and an illusion without social justice. We want a just transition to modernization based on justice and not on arbitrary and discriminatory reasons. In the stirring words of Hyacenth Bendaña, daughter of a jeepney driver and organizer of transport advocacy group Move As One Coalition, “Iba-iba man po ang grupong pinanggalingan, iisa po ang tindig ng jeepney drivers natin: ‘Hindi po kami tutol sa modernisasyon. Ngunit nananawagan po kami ng makatarungang plano na hindi kami maiiwan.’ Modernisasyon po, hindi phaseout. Ang panawagan po namin: Allow us, ang pinakaapektadong sektor, na magco-design ng transition plan with the state. Handa po kaming tumulong … The priority is to have our jeepney drivers sit at the decision-making table.”

Assistant Professor
Philosophy and Humanities Department
National University’s College of Education, Arts, and Sciences

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TAGS: Jeepney drivers, Letters to the Editor, transport strike
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