Jeepney drivers run to SC against ‘arbitrary’ transportation policies during lockdown

Jeepney drivers run to SC against ‘arbitrary’ transportation policies during lockdown

MANILA, Philippines — Assailing the arbitrariness of government actions on public transportation during lockdown and discrimination against traditional jeepney drivers, three groups trooped to the Supreme Court and urged it to strike down several issuances of the government.

Three groups of traditional jeepney drivers on Tuesday filed a Petition for Certiorari and Prohibition, asking the SC to strike down as null several issuances of the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board and of the Inter-Agency Task Force.

They specifically assailed the issuances on the prohibition and eventual resumption of mass transportation amid the ongoing lockdown, for violating the separation of powers, valid exercise of police power, equal protection and international law.

The groups also asked the SC to hold oral arguments on their petition, prepared through the Initiatives for Dialogue and Empowerment through Alternative Legal Services Inc.

Identified as respondents are Health Secretary Francisco Duque III as chairperson of the IATF, Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles as co-chairperson of the task force, LTFRB chairperson Martin Delgra III and Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade.

The petitioners said the government “arbitrarily and unreasonable confiscated Petitioners’ right to work.”

“Respondents’ measures were arbitrary because they lacked sufficient basis. When Respondents gradually allowed public transportation to operate, traditional PUJs were singled out without sufficient basis and without effort on the part of Respondents to inform traditional PUJ drivers of the fact of and the rationale of the discrimination,” they added.

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“The decision-making of Respondents is thus patently whimsical and infringed Petitioners’ right to due process,” the petitioners said.

They told the court that due to the prohibition on their operations, traditional jeepney drivers resorted to begging or switching jobs, but income was still hardly sufficient to provide for their households, on top of needing to purchase gadgets for their children’s online schooling.

Even if the government has yet to give them a green light to go back on the road, petitioners produce P1,000 to P6,000 for the barrier, sanitation and maintenance of their jeepneys.

While the LTFRB subsequently issued circulars allowing PUJs to resume operations under General Community Quarantine and approved more routes, these only highlight the board’s “outright and continuing discrimination against traditional PUJs as it openly favors operators that comply with PUV Modernization Program and Omnibus Franchising Guidelines-compliant vehicles.”

The LTFRB also did not give criteria for the approved and suspended routes of jeepney operations.

They also noted that the sole basis for favoring public utility buses over all other modes of transportation when quarantine measures were eased on June 1 was due to its high capacity to transport passengers.

But Transport Network Vehicle Services and taxis were also allowed to operate even though they are not high-capacity vehicles. “The lack of uniformity in the basis adopted for which mode of public transportation would be allowed to operate is enough to reason out that the decision making of Respondents was done capriciously and without rational basis,” they said.

“The government’s action to exclude traditional jeepneys when all other PUVs were allowed to operate, including modernized jeepneys, run contrary to the equal protection clause of the Constitution,” the petitioners said.

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Police power

The petitioners argued that the respondents have no power to issue a memorandum or order to prohibit the operations of Public Utility Vehicles. The DoTr and LTFRB are also not authorized to suspend public transportation, they said.

“Any measure to remove PUVs from the road, even temporarily due to a national public health emergency, is an exercise of police power which should be done by Congress through the enactment of a law unless validly delegated to the executive branch of government. Considering Respondents cannot find an anchor on any law that gives them such power, their exercise of the same is a violation of the principle of separation of powers,” the petition read.

SC jurisprudence defines police power as “state authority to enact legislation that may interfere with personal liberty or property in order to promote general welfare.”

An earlier filed petition by lawyer Jaime Ibañez also questioned the authority of the IATF from enforcing guidelines as he assailed its supposed “invalid delegation of legislative authority.” The former law dean challenged the constitutionality of the Bayanihan law in the imposition of the Enhanced Community Quarantine.

The SC however junked the petition for “failing to show grave abuse of discretion committed by respondents,” a statement the court’s Public Information Office on July 1 read. The resolution has yet to be made public.

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