LTFRB needs a brain transplant

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posted August 30, 2017 at 12:01 am

WILL somebody please put us out of our misery and replace the leadership at the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board?

We address this plea in earnest to President Rodrigo Duterte, Congress or even some priests who might perform an exorcism in the executive offices on this blighted agency, whose sole purpose of late seems to be to make life miserable for commuters.

President Duterte, who fired 92 LTFRB and Land Transportation Office employees in December 2016, ought to do all of us a favor and include three more names to the roster: Martin B. Delgra III, the chairman, and Ronaldo F. Corpus, and Aileen Lourdes A. Lizada, board members.

We have already seen how these officials chose to flex their regulatory muscles at the expense of long-suffering commuters, when they cracked down on transport network vehicle service companies such as Uber and Grab, whose only crime seemed to be to provide commuters a cleaner, more hassle-free and more pleasant ride than the dirty, rundown taxis driven by abusive drivers who would bilk them for more money on top of the metered fare if the destination did not suit them, or simply turn them away with a dismissive wave of the hand.

Up until recently, a prime example of the LTFRB’s distorted sense of priorities was its insistence on suspending Uber for a month over an administrative infraction, without considering the pain such a move would cause commuters and drivers.

At first, we wrote this off to luddites being uncomfortable with new technology they did not understand. But increasingly, something deeper seems to be at workers slammed Delgra for saying commuters should assert their rights to the taxi drivers snubbing passengers.

Delgra, never one to show any empathy with commuters, said the riding public should take steps to change the culture of taxi drivers who reject passengers or agree to take them if they pay extra.

“There has been a change of social behavior so that when you call a taxi, you anticipate that you will be rejected,” Delgra said. “Passengers have to demand service. You have to assert your rights as a passenger before you complain to the LTFRB.”

Delgra also urged the public to file complaints against erring drivers.

But Bagong Henerasyon Party-list Rep. Bernadette Herrera-Dy said that as a law enforcement agency with specific responsibilities over transport service providers, it is the LTFRB “who should be going after all those taxi drivers… who have not been honoring the terms of the respective franchises issued by the LTFRB itself.”

Aangat Tayo Party-list Rep. Neil Abayon added that the LTFRB chairman’s statement was “incongruous,” as it is the taxi companies that must accommodate the needs of the riding public, not the other way around.

“So I do not see any sense to why the riding public has to be the one to “assert” their right,” he said.

“In Chairman Delgra’s mind, it seems taxis can get away with violations because we commuters are not assertive enough, but TNVS [transport network vehicle service] must be penalized outright by the LTFRB because they do not comply with the law and LTFRB directives,” he said.

Herrera-Dy added that Delgra seemed “misguided” when he urged passengers to file verified complaints against abusive drivers.

“He should be lawyering for the commuters, but it looks more like he is lawyering for someone else,” she said.

In the meantime, the LTFRB’s obsession with Uber has caused it to order a stop to its joint project with the Pasig City government to develop an application that lets bus riders see on a map where all the Pasig buses are at any given time, so they decide when to walk to the nearest bus stop.

LTFRB board member Lizada said the agency must first know all the details of the project before it can go ahead—again putting bureaucracy first and commuters last.

But if the LTFRB is not looking out for commuters, who’s interest is it protecting?

We can only observe that in July, the owner of one of the biggest taxi companies in the country and the president of the Philippine National Taxi Operators Association, Bong Suntay, told a radio interview that the reason taxi drivers sometimes turn down passengers is that if the traffic is bad going to the destination, such as Divisoria, the taxi driver do some computations and decide that going there was not all that profitable.

The statement practically justified the practice—disallowed by the LTFRB–of taxi drivers turning down passengers. But did we hear a peep from the LTFRB?

Perhaps this is something Congress should investigate, on the way to recommending a change at the top at the LTFRB.

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