Travel Nightmare in the Philippines — Kabataang Makabayan

Maria Laya Guerrero | National Spokesperson | Kabataang Makabayan | National Democratic Front of the Philippines
June 07, 2020

As the country is shoved into a haphazard lifting of strict quarantine measures, Duterte’s inutile administration is trying to save itself from the embarrassment of creating absolute chaos on the roads with its badly devised travel regulations.

It is almost laughable how the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) is trying to deflect blame by gunning after the very people they have done a great disservice to. All in one day, authorities have managed to arrest 6 jeepney drivers on false so-called violations and also threaten members of a group of cyclists who had the initiative of setting up temporary barriers to protect their fellow bikers.

The jeepney drivers, including Ruben Baylon — the deputy secretary-general of transport group PISTON, held a rally to call for the lifting of the ban on jeepneys, UV expresses, and city buses while strictly observing social distancing and the use of face masks. Still, they were taken into police custody and accused of violating quarantine protocol. Meanwhile, the MMDA said it would fine Php1000 for each member of the biker group who participated in the setting up of plastic bottles to serve as guide for other bikers along Commonwealth avenue. According to the MMDA, the move endangered lives and should be cited for “obstruction” even though the bottles served only as markers for members of the group who were volunteering as traffic marshals. The bottles were also subsequently removed after their morning rush hour duty.

Yet, as if the aforementioned instances weren’t outrageous enough, MMDA General Manager Jose Arturo made a bigger clown out of himself by saying that the confusion and disorder experienced by the public since the first day of relaxed quarantine measures in Metro Manila was because commuters forgot that the first priority was health and safety.

It is not all that surprising that MMDA has the nerve of redirecting blame towards the masses. It is, after all, one of the prominent traits of the governing Department of Transportation (DOTr). Who could forget how DOTr’s Arthur Tugade said that it was the “unruly passengers” — and not the constant MRT breakdowns — who were to blame for “causing public inconvenience”?

Same as before, it must now be the MMDA’s total desperation and panic that led them to think that the public won’t see through their lame stunts.

The masses are now expected to return to their jobs in an “orderly fashion” without enough mass transportation units. They are ridiculed for supposedly neglecting health and safety measures while the government continuously deprives them of mass testing for all. The Filipino working class is faced with beyond-minor inconveniences all due to the irresponsibility of Duterte’s administration.

No amount of justification can hide the fact that jeepneys, UV expresses, and city buses are the most common and accessible modes of transportation especially for the working class. If you remove these options and expect the general public to use cabs or ride-hailing services that sometimes cost more than a worker’s daily wage, you are delusional.

The masses have long awaited the chance the get back to work to be able to feed their families that even the pandemic scare will not stop them from doing so. But now, it is Duterte’s good-for-nothing administration that will no doubt bring peril to the lives of the public.

The government has been given more than ample time mull over the country’s reopening. Yet now, all they’re doing is playing an elaborate game of “pass the blame” while failing to decisively see to the problems that still pepper the country amid the pandemic. The masses have had enough from an administration that uses crises to strengthen political powers and worsen the lives of its people. The masses have had enough from a government that will leave its people for dead. The adminisitration’s terror bill is a desperate attempt to stifle the people’s dissatisfaction and criminalize their intention to struggle for social change.

It’s high-time Duterte’s administration is made responsible for its failures and faults.