LTFRB Central Visayas denies claims of discrimination and says the PUV operators who applied for permits have been contracted by the government for its ‘Libreng Sakay’ program since April 13
CEBU CITY, Philippines – Cebu supporters of presidential aspirant Leni Robredo and running mate Senator Kiko Pangilinan are up in arms after the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board in Central Visayas (LTFRB 7) denied special permits to volunteer vehicles for the tandem’s rally in their province scheduled on Thursday, April 21.
Local Robredo-Pangilinan volunteer group Pink Cebu shared this in a social media post on Thursday morning, hours before the Ceboom Grand Rally in front of Bai Hotel in Mandaue City.
“Due to the REFUSAL of LTFRB 7 to issue special permits for our VOLUNTEER vehicles, we may have long lines in our designated pick-up points,” Pink Cebu said.
The volunteer vehicles were supposed to ferry participants from different parts of Metro Cebu, including Barangay Minglanilla, Guadalupe, and other communities, to the grand rally site in Mandaue.
Some Robredo-Pangilinan supporters cried foul over the denial of the permits, noting that use public utility vehicles (PUVs) were allowed for the Uniteam rally at the South Road Properties on Monday, April 18.
The Pink Cebu post on the transport woes of supporters joining the Ceboom grand rally added fuel to social media protest posts over the experience of volunteer group Cebu Youth for Leni’s (CY4L), which got roadblocked during their April 9 event. Cebu Mayor Michael Rama had allowed the UniTeam to use the same route, from Fuente Osmeña Circle to Plaza Independencia, on Sunday, April 17.
In an ambush interview in Bogo City, Robredo said it was “unfortunate” for their volunteers to experience such difficulties, just to participate in the campaign events.
“Kasi, as always, ‘yung hinihingi natin, pagrespeto sa iba-ibang pananaw. Kahit iba-iba ‘yung sinusuportahan na kandidato, kailangan ‘yung suportahan ‘yung respeto ina-afford sa isa, ‘yun din yung ibibigay mo sa iba lalo na pag local government unit,” Robredo said.
(As always, what we’re asking for is respect for different views. Even if you support a different candidate, the respect given to one should be given to others, especially by a local government unit.)
LTFRB Central Visayas (Region 7) director Eduardo Montealto Jr. denied the claims of “favoritism.”
“Wala mi nagdeny og special permit. Kung kinsa tong nagfile diri for special permit for any reason, okay na siya (We did not deny any special permit. Whoever wanted to file here for a special permit for any reason, that is okay),” he said.
Montealto pointed out, however, that the 18 PUV operators who applied to be volunteer vehicles in the Ceboom grand rally were under contract with the government since April 13, under the “Libreng Sakay” program.
The Libreng Sakay service contracting program gives PUV drivers and operators weekly payment based on the number of kilometers traveled per week, whether they have passengers or not, as part of the government’s response to the fuel hike crisis.
In Cebu, 54 units/PUVs had joined the 50-day program. During the contract period, PUV drivers are obliged to provide free rides to citizens on the routes assigned to them.
When Montealto checked the reason why the PUV operators were asking to leave their assigned routes, he read “freedom of expression” on the application form.
He clarified that only those not currently contracted with Libreng Sakay are going to get the go-signal for any special permits to operate as volunteer vehicles. – With reports from Ryan Macaser/Rappler.com