PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday accused jeepney operators and drivers who staged a two-day transport strike of conniving with the communists to overthrow him and said if they did not comply with the government’s modernization program by the end of the year, they would be arrested and their units impounded.
“You better comply because by Jan. 1, if I see your old, unregistered jeepneys, I will have them towed right in front of you,” Duterte said in Filipino, in a speech before the PDP-Laban in Pili, Camarines Sur.
Duterte did not mince his words even against small jeepney operators who opposed the government’s modernization program—saying he’s didn’t care if their families would go hungry.
“Mahirap kayo? P***** i** magtiis kayo sa hirap at gutom. Wala akong pakialam,” he said, addressing the jeepney operators.
The President also accused the transport group Pinagkaisang Samahan ng Tsuper and Opereytor Nationwide or Piston, which led the two-day jeepney strike, of conspiring with the legal fronts of the Communist Party of the Philippines to have him thrown out of office.
“Karapatan, KMU and Piston, they are just the legal fronts of the Communist Party of the Philippines. Kaya nga CPP, NDF, and the New People’s Army. It’s a one big conspiracy but they are at the same time, all of them, committing… rebellion,” he said.
In previous speeches, Duterte linked the communists to attempts to destabilize his government.
Officials of the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board said they received reports that the two-day transport strike was aimed at destabilizing the administration.
In a separate speech in Marawi City, Duterte said the current types of PUJ “are poisoning the people,” since old engines emit too much carbon dioxide which is harmful to the health.
He also accused jeepney drivers of allowing their engines to deteriorate and spew out “poison.”
“You do not want to fix your engines, which were used [then] overhauled. Those are really machines that should be phased out. You see, they are smoke belchers and our poor fellow Filipinos who do not have cars… suck [in] everything,” the President said.
“This is what I will do, either you modernize next year, sell your jeeps to the junkyards. Next year, I don’t want to see a single PUJ (on the streets) because if I see one, you will be arrested. Do not resist anymore because I am telling the truth, this is the law,” Duterte added.
The LTFRB, meanwhile, threatened to cancel the franchises of operators who joined the Piston transport strike.
Aileen Lizada, LTFRB spokesperson, said they have taken photographs of public utility jeepneys that joined the nationwide strike.
“All those that participated in the strike, their franchises shall be canceled. Based on our initial inspection, there are 21 vehicles that joined, of which 16 have franchises, while five have expired franchises,” she told reporters.
Under provisions of their franchise, operators may not stop operations as a “sign of protest,” she said.
She added that Piston’s two-day strike, aimed at pressuring the government to junk its jeepney, failed to paralyze public transportation.
Under the modernization program of the Department of Transportation, a modern jeepney could cost between P1.2 million and P1.6 million.
The LTFRB, however, said operators would get an P80,000 subsidy.
George San Mateo, Piston national president, claimed the strike succeeded in paralyzing normal operations of work and classes and said they were planning a four-day strike next.
A leftist farmers group on Tuesday said the biggest destabilizer was none other than President Duterte.
“The Duterte administration is very volatile and could self-combust any moment. Duterte is his own government’s destabilizer,” said Antonio Flores, secretary-general of the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas on Tuesday.
“Malacañang was quick to label the two-day nationwide transport strike led by Piston jeepney drivers and small operators as part of a destabilization plot but in truth, Duterte’s anti-people policies are swiftly leading to his growing isolation from the masses as well as rising public discontent and mass protests,” Flores said.
The transport strike is not a destabilization but a legitimate and just opposition to Duterte’s upholding of “oligarch interests,” he said. With Bill Casas