Strikers hit the wrong target

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Thursday, June 19, 2014


ON MY to the office yesterday morning, I chanced upon a group waiting for the traffic light to change at the opposite lane. They must have numbered more than a hundred men, some of whom wore identical dark shirts. They also carried a streamer, the message of which, like the sign emblazoned on the front of the blue shirts, I could not read.

I learned later that they were drivers. That explained why they did not walk until the traffic light turned green. Habits die hard.

I learned also that they were on strike and were on their way to the Land Transportation Office (LTO) to voice their displeasure with the new structure of fines being implemented by the agency.

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There is something about mass actions that fascinates me. Must be a throwback to my younger day when one was considered reactionary if he was below 20 and did not join student demonstrations.

But a jeepney strike, especially that jeepney strike, is different. It has no appeal to me and I’m trying to figure out why.

Is it because it is directed at and hits the wrong target? A case in point: The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (Opec) slows down production to drive up the price of crude oil. The retail price at the service stations goes up. The drivers go on strike to demand a fare hike. Who gets hurt? Not the OPpec but the poor commuting public.

Case at hand: The LTO wants to promote discipline among the drivers and imposes stiff fines for traffic violations. But the drivers find the penalties too harsh and go on strike. Who did they hit? Not the LTO but the poor riding public.

Or is it because the reason behind a jeepney strike is almost always personal to the driver and/or the operator and yet it results in double whammy to the man in the street? The latter has to bear the inconvenience of looking for a ride and the dent on his pocket from the increased fare.

And when the price of gasoline goes down, does the driver offer to return to the old rate?

About this thing of increased fines, why should the drivers and the operators hate it? The fines are not imposed unless the driver violates traffic laws. What is so repugnant about it?

There are good and law-abiding drivers. Unfortunately, they do not seem to constitute the majority.

Try standing on a busy street corner one morning and watch the drivers behave. If you as much as tap each erring one on the wrist for every violation that he commits, your arms would be numb before the day is over.

I wonder how many accidents could have been avoided, how many injuries and how much damages could have been prevented if we had more disciplined drivers. The fines are not meant to generate revenues; they’re intended to teach a lesson. I’m sure they knew that, too.

I hope I’d live to see the day when the public utility drivers go on strike for self-forgetful reasons. I would not only gladly join them in the streets but devote an entire column in extolling their spirit of community.

***

Today, two days after my friend, former Talisay City Mayor Soc Fernandez walked down the aisle with his 52-year-old “true love,” let me quote this beautiful poem by Samuel Taylor Coleridge in tribute to the groom: “What if you slept? And what if, in your sleep you dreamed? And what if in your dream, you went to heaven and there plucked a strange and beautiful flower? And what if when you awoke, you had the flower in your hand?”

Congratulations, Brod Soc!

(frank.otherside@yahoo.com)

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on June 20, 2014.

Opinion

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