Jeepney drivers, operators seek SC relief vs. restricted operations

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 29) — Drivers and operators of traditional jeepneys ran to the Supreme Court for relief against government orders that have hampered their livelihood amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The National Confederation of Transport Workers' Union filed a petition for certiorari and prohibition on Tuesday, asking the high court to declare null and void various issuances of the Department of Transportation and the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB).

The group challenged the restrictions imposed on traditional jeepneys, in line with the guidelines set by the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases, the policy-making body in the government’s COVID-19 response.

Public transportation was suspended in March when Luzon was placed under the strictest enhanced community quarantine. Some public utility vehicles were allowed back on the road as restrictions were eased, but petitioners question the “outright and continuing discrimination” against traditional jeepneys which could not resume operations unless they comply with modernization and other requirements.

“In extreme—yet many—instances, traditional jeepney drivers and their families have resorted to living in their jeepneys and begging for money on the streets,” the 65-page petition read.

It noted that many drivers did not receive cash aid from the government. Those that have been allowed to resume operations do not earn enough due to the required physical distancing and lack of other routes.

“Petitioners are firm in the belief that the measures adopted by the Respondents are confiscatory, unreasonable, arbitrary, and oppressive and should therefore be struck down as unconstitutional for being violative of Petitioners’ right to due process,” the petitioners said.

They said the orders violated their right to work and have an adequate standard of living.

On top of these, petitioners argued that the agencies in question do not have the power to prohibit mass transport since these are an exercise of police power that should be done by the Congress alone. The petitioners urged the high court to conduct oral arguments on the issue.

The LTFRB said that out of the 41,986 traditional jeepneys in Metro Manila, around 18,000 units have been deployed as of mid-September.

Metro Manila, the region with the most COVID-19 infections, is under general community quarantine until October 31.