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Pantranco bus franchises permanently dead

/ 10:03 PM July 31, 2012

The manipulators of the resurrection of 489 dead bus franchises in Luzon are still in a propaganda war, crying “social justice.” For crooks and would-be crooks in the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB), those still lurking in the labyrinths of that small but powerful regulatory agency, President Aquino should have issued a warning: Acts of impunity are not possible now. Some examples:

You cannot revive 489 bus franchises already declared dead 20 years ago and sell them secretly, after sham public hearings that took less than three months.

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Two bogus entities with revoked certificates of registration from the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC)—Pantranco, the corporation, and Panrea, the workers union—cannot sell provincial lines already declared expired by the LTFRB itself 20 years ago. Two dead entities selling dead bus franchises.

You cannot invoke “social justice” and “workers’ compensation” in a patently illegal franchise award that will make the Hernandez family the largest bus operating family in Luzon. Social justice is imbued with egalitarianism; it is not about promoting social Darwinism.

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You cannot just recklessly allow the entry of 489 additional buses into the already jammed Metro Manila roads without provoking anarchy in the metropolis.

You cannot award 489 new franchises under one order. It has never been done in the 25 years of the LTFRB’s existence. You cannot just do this in the context where franchise awards have not, historically, exceeded 50 units per LTFRB order.

You cannot just issue a franchise award without following the basic principle of franchise awards: Except for missionary and development routes, franchise awards have to be based on technical surveys called measured route capacity (RMC).

You cannot just quote nonexistent Supreme Court decisions from some imagined SCRA to claim that the high court has attached the franchises to the claim of workers for compensation.

In any court of justice, any motion to make legal the illegal Pantranco franchise award, which was suspended by Transportation Secretary Mar Roxas, would be thrown out with extreme prejudice.

Roxas had ordered the two LTFRB board members who approved the Pantranco franchise award, Manuel Iway and Samuel Garcia, to resign. After an investigation of the issues, Roxas got the impression that the award was nothing but a giant scam.

It became clear that somebody in the LTFRB “packaged” the franchise award after willing buyers were found. In their haste to seal the deal, the legal basis of the award came as an afterthought.

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While the nation was glued to the impeachment trial of then Chief Justice Renato Corona, while Rep. Rodolfo Fariñas of the House prosecution team was helping in work on the case, LTFRB schemers and their allies were writing the decision granting 489 bus franchises that would run on the route of the family-owned Fariñas Transit and the routes of all bus operators outside the Hernandez family.

An event that took place in 1993 (and this is well-documented in the files of the LTFRB) vividly illustrates the reason why courts of law would junk any motion to uphold the Iway-Garcia Pantranco franchise award.

In 1993, before the expiration of the Pantranco franchises, the LTFRB did an act of mercy for the bus company. It asked the Pantranco management to attend a public hearing to justify the extension of the soon-to-expire franchises.

The LTFRB probably wanted to help put Pantranco on the road to rehabilitation. Perhaps it wanted to save the historic bus company. The LTFRB, at that point, did not want to see an icon of the bus industry die without giving it a chance to have a second lease on life.

You know what Pantranco did? It did not attend the hearing that was scheduled precisely to help save it.

With Pantranco’s lack of interest to save itself, the LTFRB declared that all Pantranco franchises had expired and could no longer be sold or transferred to other parties. The sheriff sale of the Pantranco franchises to pay off claimants and creditors—one executed in 1993 and another executed 16 years later—got one reaction from the LTFRB through the years: No way. The lines had long expired and they are beyond the commerce of man.

A 2008 decision of the LTFRB board, which clearly stated that the lines had long expired, is also worth noting. Because the two bus companies that petitioned the LTFRB to kill the lines were Victory Liner and Bataan Transit, two major bus companies owned by one bus-operating family, the Hernandez family.

A few years later, in May 2012, Victory Liner, Bataan Transit, Pangasinan Five Star, First North Luzon, and Cisco Lines—all owned by that family—were named as awardees of 489 choice lines (the long and medium-distance routes between north and Central Luzon and Metro Manila) of the expired Pantranco lines.

There was a description given to the whole Pantranco franchise fiasco: It was a case of “vultures feeding on the dead.”

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