A Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) official said on Tuesday that they would file new charges against Pinagkaisang Samahan ng Tsuper at Operator Nationwide (PISTON) convener George San Mateo over reports that transport group members had physically coerced jeepney drivers into joining a two-day strike
"They have a constitutional right to assembly, the same manner that the drivers have a constitutional right to earn a living," said LTFRB board member Aileen Lizada. "I personally saw it, may bakal pang kasama. Dito naman, we are receiving reports in Tondo, hinaharang rin sila."
The LTFRB claimed that some Pampanga jeepney drivers who had refused to join the transport strike had their windows smashed in, while PISTON members blocked fellow drivers along Quezon City's Commonwealth Avenue.
PISTON had also supposedly violated traffic rules by blocking roads during their protest.
"We have received reports that they are already occupying the road and they're causing traffic," Lizada said. "You are not allowed to stay here. If you're already on the road, you're violating already laws, traffic code. Nobody's above the law, we have to be in order as well."
"We will have to gather our data and file the necessary case," she later added.
The LTFRB, in September, had filed a complaint against San Mateo with the Quezon City prosecutor's office over a violation of the Commonwealth Act 146 or the Public Service Law.
The transport board denied that the complaint was due to the strike.
Lizada was met with jeers from protesters when she arrived near the LRT-2 station in Cubao, close to a group of striking jeepney drivers.
She claimed the protest did not affect commuters as badly as the strikers claimed, contrary to PISTON's pronouncement that they had paralyzed 90 percent of Metro Manila's public transportation.
"I think the roads will speak for itself, the presence of the jeepneys on the road. We only dispatched 10 vehicles out of our 74 vehicles; that was 10 a.m. Nationwide kami, we are still monitoring, 0 percent," Lizada said.
She added that PISTON's failure to attract other transport groups to their cause was a victory for the LTFRB and the Department of Transportation (DOTr).
"Why? Bakit hindi kayo nakakumbinsi ng isang transport group na sumama sa inyo? That is already victory on the part of LTFRB and DOTr," Lizada said.
However, San Mateo disputed Lizada's claim that the strike had failed given that the government had called off classes and work for two consecutive days.
"Ang katotohanan, kung saan mismo siya nagpapahayag kanina, sinasabi niya palpak ang welga. Eh 95 percent paralisado yung jeep papunta dun sa Maynila," San Mateo countered.
"Ang problema kay board member Lizada sinusukat niya ang lakas ng welga doon sa mapeperwisyong pasahero. Kami, hindi po. Sinusukat namin ang tagumpay dun sa dami ng mga driver at operator na lumalahok sa protesta," he continued.
He then challenged the LTFRB to release their estimates on how many people would have been inconvenienced by the strike if the government had not been proactive in cancelling work and classes.
Kilusang Mayo Uno Secretary General Jerome Adonis said they paid Lizada no attention as they were focused on having a dialogue with President Rodrigo Duterte over the jeepney modernization program and the supposed corporate interests the program promoted.
"Ang prinsipal na kasalanan, si Duterte mismo dahil tinutulak niya talaga yung modernization na aariin ng mga korporasyon at tsaka ng mga dayuhan. Kaya dito po sa nangyayaring ito, ayaw naming kausap si Lizada, deodorizer ni Duterte yan eh," Adonis said.
"Dito po ang accountable mismo yung programa ni Duterte na pagbibigay sa mga dayuhang korporasyon at ng usapin ng patuloy niyang pagtutulak ng jeepney phaseout na ito," he continued.
Duterte had earlier told jeepney drivers that they needed to upgrade their jeepneys by the end of the year as old engines emitted too much carbon dioxide, affecting the public's health.
The president then accused PISTON, the KMU, Karapatan, and other militant groups of being fronts for the Communist Party of the Philippines.
“It is one big conspiracy. Right now… All of them are committing rebellion,” Duterte had said. — GMA News