Category Archives: Public Transport

Laglag Bala Scam: Time to End Cronyism, Time to Let Go of Abaya and Honrado


By Former Rep. Walden Bello

The Laglag Bala scandal is one more item in the growing list of DOTC mishaps. Secretary Abaya is well-meaning but he’s just not up to the task of managing this critical arm of government. You need someone who combines good management skills with fearless determination to bust the criminal syndicates in the various agencies. Abaya has neither.

This is the the second controversy in less than a year that NAIA General Manager Angel Jose Honrado has been linked to. He became notorious as the bureaucrat who cooked up the illegal plan to have our OFWs pay the airport tax, a measure from which they are exempted by law. This time he has been clearly negligent in overseeing airport security.

The Laglag Bala scam represents something much bigger. The scandal underlines how cronyism undermines good governance. Both Abaya and Honrado have been encouraged in their mismanagement by their closeness to the president. Like others in the Aquino cabinet, they have so far seen themselves as untouchable. Will President Aquino finally stop his awful practice of coddling his cronies and get rid of this duo before they wreak more damage at the DOTC?

As the former Chair of the House of Representatives’ Committee on Overseas Workers’ Affairs, I am especially concerned about the impact of laglag bala on our OFWs. Many have expressed fear through social media and an online petition about coming home this holiday season, which is a time when they reunite with their families. Instead of anticipating this happy reunion after toiling all year long, they are worried about being victimized by the laglag-bala scam. Many problems have festered at the airport under the Abaya-Honrado watch. Notorious among these other problems is the malignant growth of the taxi and transport cartels that victimize returning OFWs by charging an arm and a leg for short distances. These monopolies must be swept away, along with Abaya, Honrado, and the Laglag Bala syndicate.

Getting rid of Abaya and Honrado, immediately bringing the culprits behind Laglag Bala to justice, and busting the taxi and transport cartels is the least the Aquino administration can do to rectify the its record of neglect of a very important part of our nation.

Workers reenact Christ’s ‘present calvaries’

20150331_2 Passion of the Workers

IN OBSERVANCE of the Lenten season, members of the national labor center Sentro ng mga Nagkakaisa at Progresibong Manggagawa staged today in Mendiola Bridge, near Malacañang, a “people’s version” of the Passion Play depicting the many contemporary “crosses” being carried by the workers and the ordinary Filipinos.

Some protesters dressed as Roman soldiers use papier-mâché spears – representing low wages and scarce benefits, contractualization, union-busting practices, unabated price hikes of basic commodities and services, worsening poverty despite GDP “growths,” inefficient and costly public facilities like the MRT-LRT, elite democracy, patriarchy, war in Mindanao, neoliberal policies, etc. – to symbolically pierce and further hurt an actor playing as “Kristong Manggagawa,” a crucified Christ or a suffering worker.

“The Filipinos continue to suffer today under the Aquino government as Christ endured untold suffering under the tyrannical Roman Empire in the past,” Sentro said.

“President Aquino’s Tuwid na Daan has led nowhere for the working class,” Jun Santos, SENTRO campaign officer said. “After 5 years, all we got is worsening inequality,” he added.

The country’s worsening inequality – which Pope Francis called “glaring and scandalous” – is not just the result of low wages, but of a highly discriminatory form of labor regime that allows companies to put a premium on profits rather than the welfare of its workers.

“One of the worst features of today’s capitalism is the rampant use of precarious work. Contractualization and informalization of labor are the most common forms of precarious work,” Santos said. It didn’t help that President Aquino himself violated his commitment to “promote… constitutionally protected rights of workers,” found in his 21-agenda point agenda for labor and employment, by consistently ignoring calls to certify as urgent labor’s demand for the passage of the security of tenure bill or the SOT bill.

“What we need is a radical form of democracy, one where the rights and welfare of the working people, not profits, is at the center of policy making,” Santos declared.

Christ’s passion on the cross should remind us of our responsibility to participate in a historic struggle, to build a better world, one that we truly deserve. “Thy will be done on Earth as it is in heaven.”

Workers to PNoy on MRT, LRT fare hike: ‘Penalize private contractors not us’


Sentro and Nagkaisa! picketed MRT station at North Avenue

The government must penalize the private contractors who messed up the operation of the MRT system instead of running after the meager income of workers who use the metro rail system regularly.
Labor groups under the coalition Nagkaisa! made this call as they kicked off the first working day of the year with protest actions against the MRT and LRT fare hike implemented by the Department of Transportation and Communication (DOTC) last Sunday.  
Philippine Airlines Employees Association (PALEA) President and Partido Manggagawa (PM) Vice Chair Gerry Rivera, who led the protest action today at the MRT-Pasay Taft station said, “Liabilities borne out of an onerous contract should not be passed on to consumers penalizing them in effect as in the case of the Build-Lease-Transfer (BLT) contract with the Metro Rail Transit Corporation (MRTC) that built the MRT3 in 1997.”
He added that an ordinary worker who use the MRT will have to shell out at least P8,000 to cover the rate increase of 87% (from P15-P28) in one year. Total annual cost of the adjusted MRT rate will be at least P17,000. 
Rivera lamented further that instead of penalizing the private concessionaires for messing up with its contract to efficiently operate and maintain the system, “the government is rewarding them with steady flow of income from the fare hike shouldered by lowly-paid workers.”
On his part, Josua Mata, Secretary General of Sentro ng mga Nagkakaisa at Progresibong Manggagawa (SENTRO) who led the protest action together with Public Services Labor Conferederation (PSLINK), PM and other members of Nagkaisa! at MRT’s North Avenue station, said the government should finally rescind the contract and take over the operation of the entire system so that the concept of ‘subsidy’ does not become a misnomer anymore for the take-or-pay contract.  
Mata argued, “When the government takes money from commuters through a fare hike and transfers that money to fraudulent hands of private companies, that is not subsidy. That’s malady.”
He noted that the fare hike is not meant for service upgrade but for debt payments to a private concessionaire.
The Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pilipino (BMP) which led the protest action at MRT-Cubao station likewise believes that the fare hike is the bitter fruit of a failed privatization program of the country’s mass transport system. 
Nagkaisa! vowed to conduct more protest actions this month against the fare hike.

Unang araw ng pasukan ng 2015 sinalubong ng protesta ng manggagawa laban sa pagtaas ng pasahe sa MRT at LRT

Balik trabaho ang milyun-milyong manggagawa sa Kamaynilaan at kasabay nito, sinalubong naman ng protesta ng grupong Nagkaisa ang ipinapatupad na pagtaas ng pamasahe sa MRT at LRT.

Mahigit kalahati mula sa dating singil ang nadagdag sa pasahe sa MRT3 at LRT 1 & 2.

Pinangunahan ng Partido Manggagawa (PM), PALEA at Federation of Free Workers (FFW) ang protesta sa kabilang dulo ng MRT sa Pasay-Taft habang ang grupong Sentro ng mga Nagkakaisa at Progresibong Manggagawa o Sentro, PSLINK, PM, at iba pang kasapi ng Nagkaisa sa dulong istasyon naman ng North Avenue sa Trinoma. Ang Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pilipino (BMP) naman ang nanguna sa Cubao station.

Bukod sa pagtuligsa sa ipinapatupad na pagtaas, hinihikayat din ng grupo ang kapwa manggagawa na personal na ipahayag ang kanilang protesta sa pamamagitan ng ibat-ibang paraan gaya ng ‘selfie’ at ‘groufie’, pagsali sa mga petisyon at pagsama mismo sa mga aksyon laban dito.

Tinututulan ng manggagawa ang pagtaas ng pamasahe sa MRT at LRT sa 4 na dahilan:

  •  Mahihirap na manggagawa ang nakikinabang sa subsidyo at murang pasahe sa MRT at LRT;
  •  Ang pagtaas ay hindi mapupunta sa maayos na serbisyo dahil nakalaan itong pambayad sa madaya ngunit garantisadong kita ng private concessionaire na MRTC;
  • Tinatanggal ng gubyerno ang subsidyo sa MRT at LRT pero nilalakihan naman nito ang travel budget ng mga opisyal ng pamahalaan;
  • Ang fare hike ay insentibo sa pribatisasyon ng MRT at LRT.

Nanawagan ang Nagkaisa! sa Malacanang na bawiin ng desisyon sa dagdag na pasahe dahil ang rehabilitasyon nito ay pinondohan na sa loob ng 2015 National Budget.

Nagbabala pa ang grupo na lalo lang magagalit ang mananakay ng tren dahil wala silang makikitang pagbabago sa serbisyo nito sa kabila ng dagdag na singil.

Hindi aniya patas na maginhawa ang byahe ng mga opisyal ng pamahalaan dahil sa lumalaking travel budget ng mga ito habang parusa ang pasalubong ng bagong taon sa milyun-milyong manggagawa.

Nagbabala rin ang grupo na maglulunsad pa ng mga susunod na protesta hangga’t hindi ito itinitigil ng pamahalaan.


Workers up against ‘assault on labor’ on first working day of 2015


Labor groups under the coalition Nagkaisa! are set to welcome the first working day of 2015 with a protest against what they consider as government’s assault on workers’ living condition – the implementation of fare hikes in the MRT and LRT system.

The Department of Transportation and Communication (DOTC) proceeded with the implementation of the rate hike yesterday, amid oppositions from labor, commuter groups and legislators.

Based on surveys, lowly-paid workers and students make up the bulk of regular train riders.

Members of Partido Manggagawa (PM), Philippine Airlines Employees Association (PALEA) and The Federation of Free Workers (FFW) will be leading the protest at the MRT Pasay-Taft station while the Sentro ng Nagkakaisang Manggagawa (SENTRO), Public Sevices Labor Independent Confederation (PSLINK), PM and other members of Nagkaisa are taking the MRT North Avenue station. The Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pilipino (BMP) is taking the Cubao station.

Aside from the mass action, Nagkaisa! will be distributing leaflets explaining why commuters should reject the fire hike and how they can express their protest.

In opposing the fare hike Nagkaisa! contends that:

  • Fare hike is not meant for service upgrade but for debt payments to a private concessionaire;
  • Most of train riders belong to lowly-paid workers;
  • Government cutting MRT/LRT subsidy but hiking travel budget of public officials;
  • Fare hike is a move towards privatization

The group said commuters can express their opposition in various forms  including:

  • Making selfies or group pics holding mini posters and posting it on their social media accounts accompanied by #MRTprotest hashtag;
  • Joining online petitions addressed to the DOTC, Malacanang and Congress;
  • Seeking remedy from the courts; and
  • Joining scheduled mass actions

“The fare hike is the first oppressive policy of the year, the first assault by government on workers’ living condition.  Workers were first to pay their taxes but they were also the first to carry the burden of budget cuts and other unjust policies by government,” said PM spokesman Wilson Fortaleza.

He added: “Sa daang matuwid, manggagawa ang tinitipid.”

On his part PALEA President Gerry Rivera, lamented that while fares in other modes of transportation, including airlines, are dropping significantly because of the sharp drop in oil prices, but fares in the MRT and LRT are rising by as much as 87%.

SENTRO Secretary General and Nagkaisa! convenor Josua Mata said, “The true logic of removing the MRT subsidy is the government shifting to the role of shameless facilitator to the transfer of public money to private hands. In this particular case, the commuters subsidizing the guaranteed returns of private investors.”

The Nagkaisa in a series of dialogues with the President has called for a cost-effective and efficient mass transport system since the heavy traffic has been eating up a lot of productive hours of workers.

“The PNoy administration has not only failed to address the traffic mess, it is shamelessly adding a three-fold burden to workers who will have to shell out more for their own train fare and that of their children who go to school,” said Julius Cainglet of the Federation of Free Workers (FFW).

Organized labor opposes MRT/LRT rate hike

The country’s biggest labor coalition Nagkaisa is adding its voice to the growing opposition to the impending rate hikes in the metro rail transport system.

Josua Mata, Secretary General of Sentro ng Nagkakaisa at Progresibong Manggagawa or Sentro and one of the convenors of Nagkaisa likened the plan to a “wrecking ball” that will smash the train riders en masse come 2015.

“The rate of every crushing ride in MRT and LRT will be rising at a time rates in other PUVs are falling because of plummeting prices of oil. The timing is not just bad. The policy itself is very bad, it’s anti-labor,” said Mata.

Mata said labor groups under Nagkaisa will be meeting after Christmas to come up with protest plans against the fare hike.

Majority of the city’s train riders belong to the working class. They are the ones who suffer the daily violence of riding an beyond-capacity and poorly maintained railway system.

The Federation of Free Workers (FFW) likewise assailed the planned increase while workers wages stagnated to the barest minimum.

“We believe pulling money out of a worker’s pocket through a fare hike is an incentive to private concessionaires. We will gain nothing from it, not even improved services,” said FFW President Sonny Matula.

Another convenor, the Associated Labor Unions-TUCP, bewailed the fare hike, saying it shows the government’s repeated blunders in running public utilities because of over-reliance to private concessionaires.

Again, this is another example of PNoy leading from the back. Over reliance on Cabinet Secretary Abaya who not only doesn’t get, but is nowhere to be seen and heard. Result: over reliance on a greedy, socially irresponsible private sector concessionaire. Same thing in power: no policy leadership, ergo emergency powers request by another lackey in the person of Petilla who is letting the private power sector dictate supply policy. We are at the not so tender mercy of a government that does not have regulatory balls,” said Alan Tanjusay, spokesperson of ALU-TUCP.

On his part, Partido Manggagawa (PM) spokesman Wilson Fortaleza argued that the government should rather increase, not remove, the subsidies being enjoyed by train riders and at the same time put more money in developing the country’s deteriorating mass transport system.

“To us, subsidizing at least 500 million rides of workers a year is more productive than subsidizing the comfortable travel of 500 VIPs in government,” said Fortaleza, adding that all taxpayers pay for at least P8-billion a year of travel subsidy for our public officials.

In 2012, some 219 million rides were recorded in MRT-3, with an average 600,000 daily passengers. LRT 1 and 2 have 241 million combined.