BLIND SPOT: Does a strike really strike?
I remember a time when I helplessly had to walk along Panganiban Drive because there was absolutely no ride to catch. It was a shorter distance compared to the tread I took from downtown Naga along Bagumbayan all the way to Canaman because the road was missing available public transport. Looking back, it wasn’t much of a death march. It was quite a nice experience; something I could brag about a la Joey de leon and Jimmy Santos in that noontime TV gag. Anyway, it just happens every once in a while; one in a few years. Maybe I would nitpick if the jeepneys and tricycles go on a longer vacation. Last Monday, “transport groups protested rising fuel prices caused by the TRAIN law, aside from the government’s jeepney phaseout program. The groups have already staged protests against the jeepney modernization program which would phase out the iconic jeepney in a series of strikes last year. Hey, at least, there’s something mew in the protest panorama. The perennial cry of the militant transport groups is against oil price increase. For as long I could remember, way back when some transport group figures were being irately hostile to the driver of the tricycle i was riding along a bare Magsaysay Ave. in the late 1980s, and in the scenes of Lino Brocak movies of road blockades, burning tires and harassed drivers (or so the cliché goes). As a 2017 Manila Today article goes, “When the oil companies decide to increase their price, they do not need to explain themselves. Even if they do and we don’t feel content with their reasons, they would still get on with the increase. And they could do it as many times as they want, increase as high as they want, not needing government’s approval. One of the most essential commodities in the country and a vital and strategic sector in the economy is out of the public’s domain, out of government’s hands. The government through its leaders, supposedly the people’s voice, have given up control of oil price regulation since they passed the Oil Deregulation Law (RA 8479) in 1998. Oil prices rose to as much as P 51/liter of diesel and P61 per liter of gasoline in 2008, during the administration of Gloria Arroyo and as much as P48/liter of diesel and P51/liter of gasoline in Noynoy Aquino’s term.” (www.manilatoday.net) And it’s been like that since the afro was the cool hairstyle, and folk music was trending over the airwaves. But does a strike really strike? When they protested against oil price increase, did oil price decrease? When they protested for fare increase, did transport fare increase because of strikes? Or was a new fare matrix imposed through consultations and meetings? The answers to these questions, I believe are highly important in answering the question: Will transport strikes suspend the jeepney modernization program? Yes. They call suspension of regular runs of public transport a legitimate democratic exercise. But perhaps, a more efficient and effective democratic exercise would be a submission of proposals to authorized agencies. Perhaps these efforts could be coordinated with some congressmen or other government officials. After all, they are “representatives”. In our contemporary political setup, party list groups of every sort have seats in the Philippine Congress, a venue in which sectoral concerns may be opened, addressed and given definite solutions. This is democracy in actual exercise. But that’s so boring; not too dramatic; and that requires a lot of paperwork. After a day’s strike, leaders’ faces would be flashed on TV news programs declaring the success of the protest. Yes. It had success in the suspension of transportation. But has it really been successful in achieving the real and essential purpose of it all? Has oil price decreased? Were tax laws repealed? Did fare increase? Last year, “the Employers Confederation of the Philippines (ECOP) said the two-day transport strike and suspension of work in government will have substantial impact on the economy.” “The most tangible and immediate negative impact was on the daily wage earners who lost two days of no pay.” “While the private sector work does not get suspended, some of their employees would not be able to report for work because there were no public transportation.” (https://business.mb.com) So, maybe, in every transport strike, Filipino society is experiencing one of its sectors airing its grievances by momentarily pulling its interdependent sectors and causing a shock wave of pain across the general public. “But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days” 2 Timothy 3:1