Monday, January 5, 2015

Protesters vs MRT-LRT fare hike go full blast, to file TRO at Supreme Court today

Protest against the fare hike at LRT 1, LRT 2, and MRT 3, 5 January 2015. PARTIDO NG MANGGAGAWA FACEBOOK PAGE

MANILA - Protesters against the fare hike at the Metro Rail Transit and the Light Rail Transit train lines on Monday went full blast in their protest actions, including going to the Supreme Court to file a petition against the fare hike.

“Today we fight back,” said Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan), which is spearheading the protests, in a statement.

Protest actions are planned at various MRT stations. Partido Manggagawa (PM), Philippine Airlines Employees Association (PALEA) and Federation of Free Workers (FFW) will lead the protest at Pasay-Taft station, while Sentro and other members of the labor coalition Nagkaisa! will take the North Avenue (Trinoma) Station, and the Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pilipino (BMP) will have its protest action at the Cubao Station.

Tagging the fare hike as “Aquino’s Great Train Robbery,” Bayan called on commuters and taxpayers to “resolutely oppose” the fare increases for the MRT3, and the LRT 1 and 2 train lines.

“These added burdens, treacherously announced and implemented during the holidays, are without legal basis and are patently anti-commuter. These increases merely serve the profit interests of the private stakeholders in the train system while justifying government’s abandonment of its responsibility to provide affordable and efficient mass transportation for the people,” Bayan said.

The multisectoral group said the 50% to 87% fare hike will take P2.1 billion from at least 1.3 million commuters who use the three train lines every day.

“Today and in the coming days, we will stage mass protest actions to air the people’s outrage over the unjust fare increases. Today, we file a petition for certiorari and prohibition before the Supreme Court seeking a stop to the fare hike,” it said.

A broad array of groups and individuals united to challenge the fare hike before the High Court and seek a temporary restraining order.

Petitioners include Bayan, represented by its secretary general Renato Reyes Jr., activist and former lawmaker Teodoro CasiƱo, former LRT Administration chief Melquiades A. Robles, Kilusang Mayo Uno chair Elmer C. Labog,

RILES Network spokesman Sammy T. Malunes, Courage chairman Ferdinand R. Gaite, Anakbayan chair Vencer Crisostomo, Alliance of Health Workers president Jossel I. Ebesate, Kadamay chair Gloria G. Arellano, businessman Herman Tiu Laurel, Myrleon E.Peralta,

SSS union president Amorsolo L. Competente, commuter advocate Elvira Y. Medina, commuters Maria Donna Grey Miranda and Angelo Villanueva Suarez of Tren, labor leaders Atty. Jose Sonny G. Matula of the FFW and David L. Diwa of National Labor Union, journalist James Bernard E. Relativo of TREN and Giovanni A. Tapang of Agham.

“The fare hike is without legal basis. The DOTC and its secretary cannot be the fare hike proponent, approving body, and implementor all at the same time. The fare hike cannot be valid without a proper public hearing where the proponents present all the bases for the fare hike and the public is given the opportunity to oppose it,” the group said.

The protesters said the fare hike only seeks to benefit the private stakeholders of the train system.

“It has nothing to do the improving the services of the trains. Congress already appropriated some P9.3 billion for the improvement and rehabilitation of the train system. Why increase fares when Congress has already allocated increased budget?” it said, quoting Senator Francis Escudero, head of the Senate finance committee.

The group explained that the fare increase is due to the privatization scheme being upheld and implemented by the Aquino government.

“The MRT 3’s Build-Lease-Transfer Agreement entered into under the Ramos government had guaranteed the private stakeholders of MRTC a 15% return on investment. This is where the bulk of government subsidy goes, to ensuring the profits of private companies,” the group said.

“It is the same case with LRT 1 whose operations have been privatized in favor of the Ayala Corporation and Metro Pacific. They are now entitled to collect and utilize the fares as a part of a P65 billion privatization deal. The LRT2 is also up for privatization and the same will apply,” it added.

The Aquino government has so far guaranteed the profits of a few while guaranteeing the misery of millions of low and middle-income commuters who depend on the train, it said. Aquino invokes the neo-liberal notion of “users-pay” where the public is forced to spend more while government cuts back on subsidy.

“It is time to stop this unjust fare hike dead on its tracks. It is time to put the brakes on the privatization of the train lines. We will not be run over by a callous and anti-commuter regime,” the group said. -

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