Jeepney drivers accuse enforcers of extortion

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Wednesday, July 23, 2014


TRAFFIC Enforcement Agency of Mandaue (Team) Chief Edwin Ermac yesterday urged jeepney drivers to report traffic enforcers who collect bribes.

Reacting to allegations that some traffic enforcers collect P20 daily from jeepney drivers, Ermac said formal complaints should be made so Team can investigate.

"They should give us names of the traffic enforcers," Ermac told reporters at the Police Regional Office 7, where he attended a meeting.

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He assured that guilty traffic enforcers will face sanctions, which can be dismissal from service.

Members of the Pinagkaisang Samahan ng Tsuper at Operator Nationwide (Piston) Cebu called for Ermac's resignation in a protest rally last Monday, saying the official is inconsiderate to jeepney drivers.

They decried the recent rerouting scheme the Team enforced and the absence of loading and unloading stations for jeepneys in Mandaue.

In his defense

Ermac said he will only resign if Mayor Jonas Cortes asks him to. "I think I'm still needed (as head of the Team). It would be cowardice on my part if I give in to that demand," he said.

He defended himself against accusations he is inconsiderate, saying all drivers in Mandaue would have been disciplined if he is too strict.

He said the City has provided enough areas for jeepneys to unload and pick up passengers. But the drivers, he said, linger too long in the loading and unloading stations, causing traffic.

Ermac also said he received a text message several years ago from an anonymous sender offering him money in exchange for a terminal for jeepneys in a certain area.

He said he did not entertain the sender and later received a death threat. Ermac said he opted not to report the threat to the police.

Piston Cebu coordinator Greg Perez and some Piston members had a dialogue with City officials during their protest action last Monday.

They asked the City Council to pass a resolution opposing the increased penalties for transportation-related violations.

The blame game

Councilor Elstone Dabon, chair of the committee on transportation, said the City Council will hold a public hearing with all the stakeholders affected by Joint Administrative Order 2014-01.

Jeepney drivers and operators find some of the provisions of the administrative order oppressive, including the P1-million penalty on colorum or illegal vehicles.

The order was issued by the Land Transportation Office (LTO) and the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB).

Meanwhile, Julito Flores of the Cebu South Mini Bus Operators Association and Benjamin Ryan Yu of the Cebu Integrated Transport Service Cooperative believe the LTO must be blamed for the moving violations of jeepney drivers under the doctrine of "command responsibility," and not the operators.

"Unfair"

They said the LTO is mandated under Republic Act 4136 to educate the drivers on traffic laws, rules and regulations.

As a matter of fact, Flores and Yu said, driver's seminar on traffic rules and regulations is a pre-requisite in the issuance of a driver's license.

This means, they said, the LTO only issues a driver's license once they are sure the applicant already know the traffic laws, rules and regulations and know how to drive safely to avoid vehicular accident and to prevent the loss of lives and properties.

"So why are LTO, LTFRB and DOTC (Department of Transportation and Communication) putting the blame on us (operators) by including us in the penalty once a driver will violate the law?" Flores said.

Flores cited a provision in JAO 2014-01 where a driver is fined P1,000 for refusing to convey passengers to their destination.

Flores said the operator's counterpart fine is P5,000, or five times higher than the driver who commits the violation.

"That is unfair especially that operators have no more control on jeepney drivers once they exit the garage to ply on their route. If a driver refused to convey his passengers to their destination, that's the driver's decision and the operator has nothing to do about it," he said.

Yu said if a driver will violate traffic rules, the operator will be fined P5,000 for the first offense, P10,000 for the second offense and P15,000 for the third offense plus suspension of franchise.

Yu and Flores said they have already submitted their proposals to amend JAO 2014-01 and if the "oppressive" provisions are not amended, a transport strike is imminent and the filing of petitions in court will push through.
When sought for comment, LTO 7 Director Arnel Tancinco said the issue is valid.

"The Central Office (of LTO) is also assessing that issue as far as the principle of equal liability," Tancinco said.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on July 23, 2014.

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