MEMBERS of the Pinagkaisang Samahan ng mga Tsuper at Opereytor Nationwide (Piston) held a nationwide protest on Monday morning, March 19 against the government’s looming jeepney modernization program.

This program aims to phase out jeepney units that are 15 years old and above, and these non-Euro-4 compliant vehicles with models that are standardized by the government. This will affect around 180,000 drivers nationwide, according to the LTFRB.

This is clearly anti-poor because replacing the old models would cost each driver at least P1 million. Drivers were even encouraged to loan the money to buy the new models and, in return, they have to pay everyday using the collected 7-peso fare from each passenger.

But despite the holding of several transport strikes, the pleas of the drivers fell on the deaf ears of the government.

Meanwhile, to those asking why activists resort to “vandalizing,” it is actually “a response to the violence that the affected sectors face and will face each day.”

Furthermore, vandalism is not the main issue here. We challenge you to dig deeper on the plight of our drivers who will be affected by this anti-poor program. Ask them. Get their sentiments and you will realize how it will affect them and their families if the program is put into effect. They will lose their job, the job that feed them and their families.

Public vandalism is also not an aimless disruption, or disruption for its own sake. Because, it is only when we stir people’s sense of comfort can we deliver the message loud and clear. Only when we encroach in their safe spaces can we get their attention. Vandalism is not about the art or aesthetics, it is about power.

Also, do not forget when the houses and schools of Lumads in Mindanao were ransacked and vandalized by the AFP. Some were even burned. This happened after the Lumads were displaced by counter-insurgency operations. You need to research more about AFP operations in Mindanao which affected mostly the Lumads.

It is also quite unfair when you put weight into this issue but when it comes to other issues like human right violations committed by the AFP against the Lumads in Mindanao, you’re silent.

There are also other issues that are worth discussing about like the K to 12 graduates not being employable, the Train Law, EJKs, mining companies that continuously destroy the environment, contractualization, low minimum wage and so on.

We will not stop asking the government to junk the anti-poor jeepney modernization program. We will not let our drivers lose their job. We will not allow social injustice be the norm in this society. We are one with the affected sectors in pushing for change in government that is genuine and not fake.

Most of all, we are one with our drivers in this fight. If it takes “street vandalism” to fight for it, we will do it. #NoToJeepneyPhaseout #NoToPUVPhaseout--sender’s name withheld upon request