THE National Confederation of Transport Workers Union (NCTU) yesterday asked the Supreme Court (SC) to declare as unconstitutional a total of 16 government issuances that prohibit public transport, particularly jeepneys, from resuming full operations even amid the raging coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.
In a 75-page petition for certiorari and prohibition, the NCTU accused the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID), as well as the Department of Transportation (DOTr) and the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) of discriminating against jeepney drivers and violating the equal protection clause and their rights to due process and to work.
“The respondents arbitrarily and unreasonably confiscated petitioners’ right to work.
Deprived of a substantial means of livelihood, the petitioners were unable to earn income for themselves, and for their families. Respondents failed to establish a causal connection between the prohibition and the mitigation of the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, thus, making the measure unreasonable,” the group said.
To make matters worse, the group said jeepney drivers were still not allowed to ply the roads or were placed as the last priority while other forms of public utility transports were already allowed to resume when the government gradually eased quarantine restrictions, particularly in Metro Manila.
“The issuances of respondents showed an obvious preference for modernized jeepneys even though petitioners aver that no substantial distinction exists between modernized and traditional jeepneys,” they said.
This, they argued, run counter to the equal protection clause of the Constitution.
They also said that while the IATF was given the authority to implement quarantine and isolation measures due to the pandemic, suspension of the operations of public transport such as jeepneys was not one of them.
As for the DOTr and the LTFRB, they said the two agencies are vested only with administrative power over transportation and quasi-judicial functions related to land transportation.
“The respondents are not authorized under the law to unilaterally and indefinitely suspend public transportation,” they added, stressing that the issuances of the IATF, DOTr and LTFRB have no legal leg to stand on.