Statement of CHR Spokesperson, Atty. Jacqueline Ann de Guia, on the arrest and detention of six PISTON jeepney drivers and on the public transportation situation in Metro Manila

Statement of CHR Spokesperson, Atty. Jacqueline Ann de Guia, on the arrest and detention of six PISTON jeepney drivers and on the public transportation situation in Metro Manila

The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) expresses deep concern over the arrest of six PISTON drivers in Caloocan City this week after they petitioned the on-going ban on jeepney operations even under the general community quarantine (GCQ). They are still in detention as of this writing for allegedly violating quarantine rules.

Jeepney drivers, and other members of the public transportation sector, continue to lose their source of income for at least two and a half months now since mass transportation in Metro Manila was suspended to control the spread of Covid-19.

Some of the arrested drivers are within the age bracket that are at most risk, one being 72 years old, and have preexisting health conditions such as high-blood pressure and diabetes, making them most vulnerable to the disease.

As we transitioned to the ‘new normal’ this week, around 30% of Metro Manila commuters went back to work despite the threat of the virus and the limited availability of public utility vehicles on the road. Based on reports, many of the commuter population were left to fend for themselves going to work and were even forced to walk for miles.

To alleviate the already dire situation of Filipino workers who are struggling to make ends meet, the Commission calls on the government to ensure the operation of sufficient number of public transportation so both commuters and transport workers may be able to comply with the physical distancing policy while doing their best to make a living. Similarly, as people are already adopting alternative and non-motorised modes of transportation such as biking, the government must provide short and long-term interventions to protect bikers during their commute.

We also echo the plea of the labor and trade departments enjoining employers to provide shuttle services for their workers and to shift to alternative work arrangements if applicable.

Pre-coronavirus, the traffic congestion and mass transportation problems in Metro Manila have been already impacting the everyday lives of workers and the country’s economy. Given this longstanding problem with the looming challenges of the pandemic, the government, both at the local and national levels, must quickly resort to sustainable and people-centered transportation policies to protect not just the health and safety of commuters, but also their right to work and their right to enjoy quality standard of life.###