Too Harsh and Anti-poor

August 26, 2017

Letter to the Editor

(published in the Philippine Daily Inquirer / 05:02 AM August 26, 2017)

Last Aug. 3, Quezon City’s public order and safety department implemented a “one-strike policy” against unregistered or “colorum” tricycles (“QC gov’t crushes sidecars seized from colorum,” Metro, 8/4/17). Hundreds of tricycles were publicly destroyed to serve as warning to other drivers and operators.

The destruction of tricycle sidecars is too harsh a punishment for poor people trying to earn a living through decent and acceptable ways. It is an utter display of double standard, where the government is lenient to the moneyed—even to transnational transport networks that do not have permits—while using iron-fisted “implementation of the law” when it comes to the poor.

It is infuriating how the local government has destroyed their source of income while failing to provide alternative livelihood or employment. Most drivers or operators borrowed money or got their tricycles on loan, even at a higher rate, because it probably is the most that they could afford. Seeing their vehicles crushed by the government will drive them to more desperation. Where does the government want these people to go?

Unregistered tricycles in Quezon City have thrived because they are filling the need for a cost-effective mode of transport for working people that the local government has been unable to provide. Tricycles without franchise licenses in Quezon City, according to reports, are estimated to be around 5,000-10,000. This means as many as 10,000 families could lose their source of living. What alternative is the Quezon City government offering?

The Quezon City government has a long list of policies favoring the rich and powerful under the pretext of implementing the law. In 2013, it attempted to collect a P100-P500 garbage collection fee but this was turned down by the Supreme Court as it was oppressive. It is also known for various violent demolitions of urban poor communities, such as those in North Triangle and BIR Road, to give way to business interests.

Is the crackdown on unregistered tricycles in Quezon City the first step to totally banning and replacing them with e-trikes? Since 2014, the national government has been pushing for the tricycle modernization program where old three-wheeled vehicles will be phased out and replaced by e-trikes at a higher cost. This is the same threat that jeepney drivers are facing with the jeepney modernization program. The city of Manila and Valenzuela have already started their crackdown on tricycles and other three-wheeled vehicles, which drivers and operators are resisting.
In December 2016, Joel Lising, a leader of Pagkakaisa ng mga Triwheel Operators Para Sa Kabuhayan—and who was active in the campaign against the phaseout and crackdown on three-wheeled vehicles—was killed. His organization suspected that his killing was related to their campaign.

DAISY ARAGO, executive director, Center for Trade Union and Human Rights Inc.,