(The following is a summary of a written stand submitted to the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board for today’s public hearing on the petition for fare hike by drivers and operators of public utility jeepneys.)

I AM a private individual, with no political affiliation whatsoever and a senior citizen.

The petition by Citrasco for a fare increase of from P7.50 to P10 is exorbitant, unreasonable, outrageous, overpriced, preposterous and excessive!

We know that for a long time, workers in Region 7 have not received any wage increase. Thus, commuters with their families have no way to carry this additional burden in the budget. The increase will also double the effect of fuel price hikes on prices of prime commodities.

Since the implementation of the P7.50 minimum fare in 2012 we the commuters have been continually cheated. PUJ drivers have rounded the fare charge to P8, meaning they overcharged by 50 centavos.

That is a case of simple graft, extortion or theft, a gross injustice to the commuters because the fare is above what is required by law.

In the last fare increase, the hope was that improvement of PUV units will begin. But it’s common knowledge that after many fare increases the operators think only of their profit and have not done so.

Operators, likewise, continually hire drivers who violate the country’s anti-smoking ordinance. Drivers, like those in Consolacion, Talamban and Talisay, also overcrowd their vehicles by placing benches in the middle of the jeepney to ferry more passengers.

PUV drivers should contribute to pedestrian safety to prevent traffic injuries.

But in Cebu City alone, the Traffic Patrol Group of the Cebu City Police Office officially recorded 1,359 cases of physical Injuries caused by car collisions, including car-pedestrian collision and 210 cases of physical injuries in hit-and-run incidents, including 47 homicide cases in 2013. These data include accidents involving pedestrians.

RA 4136 of 1964 or the Land Transportation and Traffic Rules Act as amended by PD 1958 issued in 1984 obliges motorists to give way or yield to pedestrians.

But many PUV drivers intentionally stop, wait and pick-up passengers in the middle of zebra crossings along routes. Others encroach on stop lines in signalized junction pedestrian walks and willfully obstruct pedestrians to await for passengers.

They continually, trip-cut authorized routes, overload PUVs with passengers, refuse to ferry persons with disabilities (PWDs), senior citizens and school children. Drivers and conductors give insensitive remarks to them.

Trip cutting can be observed in the Ramos-Lahug-Plaza Housing-Busay route. After unloading passengers in their mountain destination, the PUVs turn around empty to Lahug proper and park there to load passengers before proceeding back to Nivel Hills-Plaza Housing and Busay.

Other PUJs take passengers from their end destination and bring them only to Lahug proper or to the Asilo and then turn around, park and load passengers denying public conveyance onwards to Maxilom-Ramos and the downtown area.

Residents in Nivel Hills have to ride twice and pay double the fare for the Gorordo-Maxilom-Ramos-Carbon route. This irregularity has been a practice every after 4 p.m. for more than 12 years now.

We, commuters and pedestrians who are the source of revenue of drivers and operators, have been taken for granted in the vehicle upkeep or their no-value-for-money riding condition, disrespected of our rights (specially PWDs, senior citizens and school children) and scorned, suffered due to trip-cutting, endangered in pedestrian crossings and victimized by drivers contemptuously insensitive to the plight of low wage earners.

For these reasons, the petitioners must be denied of any fare hike. -- Melgredo B. Castillon