LTFRB says no complaints filed by drivers in ‘Libreng Sakay’ pay dispute

LTFRB says no complaints filed by drivers in âLibreng Sakayâ pay dispute
Commuters, who are heading to their workplaces, line up at the Nepa Q-Mart station of the EDSA Bus Carousel in Quezon City early Tuesday morning, June 21, 2022, to beat the influx of passengers. The Metropolitan Manila Development Authority estimated last week that there will be a possible increase in passenger volume as fewer private cars may ply EDSA due to the continuing hike in oil prices.
The STAR / Miguel De Guzman

MANILA, Philippines — The Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board on Thursday urged unpaid public utility vehicle drivers to course their complaints through formal reports instead of going to the media. 

Speaking in an interview aired over ANC's "Rundown," LTFRB Executive Director Tina Cassion recoiled when asked about drivers of public utility vehicles who say they haven't been paid yet, opting to distance from the situation and question why no formal reports were ever filed. 

"I've already been saying before that if there are circumstances like this, don’t just say it in the media. We have to know. You have to file a formal report with the authorities, because how can we go after your operators if you do not even name who the operators are?" she said in mixed Filipino and English. 

"Normally, when we pay the operator, there is a liquidation report, and when they submit [this,] there is a report that the drivers have already been paid. So if drivers are saying that this is not true, then we will go after the operators."

Though she urged the drivers to go through the formal channels of the LTFRB, Cassion in the same breath also tagged the situation as an employer-employee issue which she said would be under the jurisdiction of the Department of Labor and Employment. 

The LTFRB executive director went on to claim that the LTFRB never received formal reports. "We can go after [operators] for breaching the contract if only they will file something before us," she said. "On the part of the LTFRB, we have already paid what we are obliged to pay."

But groups representing transport workers have said that the LTFRB had not noticed formal reports and even demonstrations that they held to protest delayed payment and mistreatment from operators. They pointed to both the transportation and labor departments, saying they approached the two but never received any assistance.

To recall, former drivers along the carousel told of harsh restrictions on riders who were growing increasingly dissatisfied with what they said was their delayed pay. One group which held a press conference in late April said they were fired when they asked for their delayed payment. They had not been paid since May of last year, they said. 

"What they did to us was pure pressure. In fact, we travel about 18-21 hours in a day on the EDSA Carousel. The worst part is that sometimes are bodies give out but we are still being forced to ride," one bus driver said. 

"Most of us have been in debt for a long time. We were only listened to after our protest, but until now the process is still very slow and many of us still do not given our hard-earned wages," they said in a statement. 

Payout under service contracting has been sluggish since the program left the terminal in 2020. In September of that year, senators filed a resolution calling for a probe after a report by the Commission on Audit found that the LTFRB utilized just P59.7 million of its P5.58 billion budget for the program in 2020, less than 2% of the allocated funds. 

Cassion on Thursday went on to point to the successes of the EDSA Carousel.

"There's really a surge in participants this year. Just imagine, the routes we have opened, from 596, it's already 942 nationwide, and the onboarded units, from 5,734 it's already 16,691 for this year, that's really triple the units that were onboarded before," Cassion said. 

"We know that people are really clamoring for the extension. We would want to extend the program, but of course we would need some supplemental budget on this." — Franco Luna



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