Public being taken for a ride
On Jan. 4, 2015, the government sent mass transport off the rails by hiking “at full speed” the MRT and LRT fares, adding insult to the injury sustained daily by more than a million commuters from the perilous, inadequate and lousy services of these railway systems.
But this devious run must itself be derailed by all means within our power.
On the judicial front, Bayan and other organizations and commuters as petitioners, assisted by rights lawyers from National Union of People’s Lawyers, filed in the Supreme Court, on Jan. 5, the first working day of the year, a petition for certiorari and prohibition challenging the fare hikes on both procedural and substantive grounds. It named as respondents Transportation Secretary Jose Abaya and top officials of the rail transit companies and consortium.
The petitioners, on their own behalf and on behalf of the millions of daily commuters—who fall in kilometric queues under the searing heat of the sun or cold, soaking rain, who are invariably squeezed, pushed and shoved, fighting practically for every nook and cranny in cramped cars that tend to break down anyway, and who struggle to simply travel from one point to another at the least affordable cost and in as fast and efficient manner as possible, if not assuredly safest for now—seek an immediate stop to fare hikes through a temporary restraining order or status quo ante order.
The adjusted fares were treacherously imposed during the season of hope and did not satisfy the fundamental requirements of due process, publication and hearing. At 50-87 percent more than the previous rates, they are also excessive, unjustified and baseless, rammed through an irregular and invalid process amounting to grave abuse of discretion, and founded on nothing other than the false claim that the government has been suffering from losses in the operation and maintenance of the LRT and the MRT, and combined with a warped logic of “teletransporting” supposed subsidies outside Metro Manila.
As the current administration is wont to do, the fare hike will only condemn the riding public, especially the ordinary workers—most of them low-income, minimum wage earners—and students deeper into misery, while fattening the pockets of big private operators of the railway systems. Corporate profits, once again, trumps public service.
We will not allow government to take us for a ride.
—EPHRAIM B. CORTEZ, assistant secretary general for legal services; EDRE U. OLALIA, secretary general, National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers, [email protected]
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