Fleecing unsuspecting taxi passengers

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    THE pressure of having to earn a little extra this holiday season to be able to meet the additional expenses in connection with the Christmas and New Year observance sometimes induces ordinary workers to do indelicate things they otherwise would not consider doing.

    The holiday rush necessarily results in the massive number of commuters and motorists simultaneously on the road, competing for space and mobility. This has been exploited by some unscrupulous taxi drivers who resort to contracting fares with passengers, mostly foreigners. An example of this malpractice has been documented in a cellphone video, posted on social media, and has gone viral since.

    A foreigner and his two Filipino lady companions recently conducted a social experiment on the honesty and level of service of our taxi drivers in Metro Manila. They documented their trips, haggling and bargaining with the drivers, often pointing out that transport regulations such as the use of taxi meters should be respected.

    The foreigner and his companions were dismayed that 11 taxi drivers refused to use the cab meter and instead asked for a fixed rate from P500 to P600. Other drivers asked for an extra P50 to P100 over and above the amount indicated in the taxi meter. Of some 20 driver-samples in the experiment, only three passed the test of honesty, and the group rewarded these drivers with P1,000 each.

    The 17-minute video mirrors the state of uprightness among transport workers especially in the taxi industry, and the Department of Transportation (DOTr) along with its attached agency, the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) which both vowed to take action on the problem of rogue drivers.

    “We will not ignore this, instead we will intensify the campaign against taxi drivers who openly defy our regulations,” the Department said in a statement. Specifically, LTFRB Technical Division chief Joel Bolano said this malpractice is a clear violation of the franchise granted to public utility vehicles (PUVs) like taxis. He added that under the agency’s joint administrative order, the drivers proven to be contracting and overcharging passengers could be fined up to P5,000.

    Complaints against taxi drivers contracting and refusing to convey passengers are common especially during the holidays, and the DOTr and the LTFRB are not remiss in conducting an intensified campaign against abusive drivers, including those who snub passengers and refuse to let them ride.

    This campaign by the government’s transport authorities, however, will not fly without the direct participation and support of the people. So these agencies have called on the public to immediately document and report to them all instances of cheating and abuse — with details such as the names of the driver, operator, owners of the franchise, license plates and body number, or even video or photographs — for proper intervention.

    Only a working partnership between the government and the public will ensure good results in this campaign.