Editorial: Putting the public first

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Sunday, January 12, 2014


A FILIPINO found that taxi drivers are good barometers for distinguishing a developed country from a developing one. Traveling on business, he found Taiwanese taxi drivers exemplary in their service, especially to tourists. Confused about local currency, he asked help from drivers in settling the fare. Not once did a Taiwanese driver attempt to get more than the metered fare.

In Vietnam, he found that choosing taxi drivers not accredited by reputable hotels was a dodgy business. Once, a driver dropped him off blocks from his hotel, chose a desolate spot, and overcharged him for his fare. Using a folded newspaper, the driver attempted to cheat him of several dollars.

Looking back on that rainy night encounter, he said he looked closely at the face of the Vietnamese cab driver, wondering if, by chance, he turned out to be a Cebuano.

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From hard experience, he found Cebuanos driving taxis in Cebu and Manila to be among the “most dishonest” and “ruthless” in preying on tourists.

Cleaning up

For every story extolling the Gerardo Gamboas of the world, there seems to be a hundred stories of woes over thieves and extortionists on wheels.

Gamboa, a Fil-Am taxi driver in Las Vegas, was praised and rewarded for turning over to his employer the $300,000 (P12.6 million) left by a passenger in his cab last December.

According to a report on philstar.com, Gamboa said he wanted to do “the right thing” and show that “Filipinos are hardworking, industrious and honest no matter where they are.”

Integrity and professionalism in drivers of public utility vehicles remain top concerns for commuters, including tourists and visitors. Last year closed with several roadside tragedies in Cebu and Manila that highlighted the urgency for stricter screening of and continuing education for drivers whose personal and professional conduct affect the safety and well-being of the public.

Last Christmas and New Year, peak season for commuting, taxi passengers complained that drivers haggled for a higher fare after claiming that their meters were not working and the heavy traffic necessitated the “extras” in the negotiated fare.

Passengers often agreed to this arrangement to avoid the long queues for taxis.

In Cebu, the holidays extend to late January, due to Sinulog festivities. In the heavy flow of commuters going to and leaving the Basilica del Sto. Niño, jeepney drivers take advantage by cutting the trips short, urging passengers to get down a few meters short of their destination so they can take in new passengers for the return trip.

Aiding the law

These abuses cannot be monitored and responded to all the time by the authorities.

Self-regulation must be exercised by the public transport sector.

This message was stressed to some 50 bus, mini bus and taxi operators when they recently met with officials of the Police Regional Office (PRO) 7.

According to the Jan. 11 report by Sun.Star Cebu’s Davinci S. Maru, the public transport sector heads came to show their support of PRO 7’s anti-criminality drive for the Sinulog.

The operators said they will help spot suspicious-looking individuals who may prey on the public during the Sinulog. Public utility vehicles will also display stickers showing emergency numbers for contacting the police.

Yet, the transport support can best support the drive to keep the festivities orderly and peaceful by making their members strictly follow the law, particularly the rerouting scheme made by the City Traffic Operations Management.

PRO 7 officials reminded the public transport sector not to exploit the holiday crowd through practices that choose and overcharge passengers.

For even though the holidays guarantee that the public sector will make a killing in their profits, public utility drivers and operators must put the public’s safety and welfare above other considerations.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on January 13, 2014.

Opinion

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