July 19, 2024

The recent publicity resulting from the social media post of a foreign celebrity becoming a victim of drivers who overcharge passengers has once again brought to light the need to speed up reforms in the country’s transportation system.

Reports about public utility vehicle (PUV) drivers especially in Metro Manila and Metro Cebu getting more than the prescribed fare rates from passengers are not new. In fact, this practice has been happening for decades now, with countless passengers becoming victims of these abusive PUV drivers.

The usual modus of the drivers (usually taxi drivers) is to negotiate a rate with unsuspecting passengers instead of using their meters. Others manipulate meters to reflect rates that are way too high compared to calibrated meters. There are also those who deliberately turn down passengers for reasons that only they know.

First-timers, those unfamiliar in the area, and those who do not have a choice but hire out of necessity are the usual victims of these modus.

While this scam is often reported as committed by taxi drivers, this practice is not exclusive to them.
Tricycle and habal-habal drivers who ply municipal roads and backstreets also squeeze dry their passengers.

In other words, this practice of practically extorting from passengers is pervasive nationwide.

When caught, the drivers’ usual excuses are the income from using their meters are not enough for fuel, maintenance, and their takehome pay, hence the need to ask for “extra” from passengers.

Sadly, this puts in a badlight not only PUV drivers who are honest, but also the entire country touted to be a hospitable nation.

The Land Transportation, Franchising and Regulatory Board, being a quasi-judicial body, has issued memorandum circulars in efforts to curb this practice but the problem persists perhaps owing to the fact that the filing of a complaint alone requires formal submission of a verified complaint plus hearings, as part of due process.

For those who are not from the place where the incident took place, filing a complaint and attending hearings are a hassle, reason why this practice of PUV drivers continues and mostly unpunished at that.

Although we appreciate that a process is in place for these kinds of grievances, the LTFRB should also employ an approach that would prevent these scams from happening.

We know that the Department of Transportation being the mother agency of the LTFRB is now implementing reforms in the public transportation system, which include, among others, employing a cashless fare payment method, but this is taking on a very slow pace.

Strengthening of PUV associations by making them register as juridical entities has not likewise taken off as expected. Those that formed into cooperatives or corporations have focused on the business side of transportation but mechanisms with how they will police their own ranks are still wanting.

The traffic and transportation committees of local government units should also be tapped to strengthen the regulation on the operation of PUVs.

Without sufficient mechanisms in place to safeguard the rights of commuters, then public transportation in the Philippines will remain inconvenient and more expensive compared to other countries in the world.

If PUV drivers in the cities of Baguio, Davao, and Cagayan de Oro are able to earn every centavo without having to resort to these scams, why can’t we do the same nationwide?