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Striking the Strikers

The tricycle I was riding on whisked through a Magsaysay Ave. which was clean sweep of cars. Then, my ride passed by some characters by the streets, gloating on the driver, yelling protests on running his vehicle despite the national strike, a vision clear enough for me from sitting behind the driver. This was a nationwide strike some 30 years ago.

I was waiting for an announcement for local participation in the nationwide strike last September 30, in the hopes of an additional holiday. No such notice came. Not much of a surprise since the local transport sector has notably not participated in such suspension of public transport services in the considerable length of recent time. Although I would love a class suspension, I appreciate the non-disruption of daily regular activities. It would certainly be a real pain in the neck if the roads were suddenly diminished of its vehicular volume. Anyway, such is an element of democracy – the freedom to express and enact personal and/or corporate stands in a peaceful setting.

Well, that’s what I know, and I suppose, that’s what we all know; and that’s how we understand it – that every Filipino has the right to expression including protest which could include intentional leave of absence from work duties. That’s probably the reason why riot police stand still with shields and truncheons employing maximum tolerance. Because after all, protesters would merely exercise their rights: and such action does not warrant any sort of sanction. So, why is LTFRB threatening suspension or cancellation of franchises of operators who participated in last Monday’s strike? The board’s chairman Martin Delgra III is citing LTFRB Memorandum Circular No. 2011-004 which prohibits them from halting operations as a means of protest. ( ) Okay, so they got a directive to back that up. Wait a minute, is that constitutional at all? Does that not smash against the principle of freedom of expression? It’s like saying, you may eat any of the cakes, except your favorite one.

How does that memorandum circular run in consonance with the fact that “The Philippine Constitution guarantees the right to strike in accordance with law. Although the right to strike is not absolute, it should not be subject to certain legal conditions or restrictions as to impede its lawful exercise. ... The Labor Code gives the right to strike only to a ‘registered’ labor organization.” ( How do we reconcile the said directive with 1987 Guidelines Governing Labor Relations 17 “. No court or entity shall enjoin any picketing, strike or lockout except as provided in Articles 218 and 263 of the Labor Code, as amended”? LTFRB Chair Delgra tries to qualify the threats by saying that those who would face suspension or cancellation of franchise would be those who engaged in aggressive and violent behavior on the strike. But if we refer back to the memorandum circular, it does not include violence as condition. Operators only need to halt regular transport services to be “eligible” for franchise suspension or cancellation.

There’s a problem here. The department directive runs in contrary from already existing established bodies of policy. Basic institutions of freedom have long recognized strike as a lawful expression of protest (well, excluding of course, if picketers get violent). Even guidelines on labor acknowledge the legality of staging strikes in labor disputes, and even provides against any proscription of the practice by any court or entity, (so I guess that includes LTFRB and the Department of Transportation). Even long before the strike, LTFRB has “had earlier warned transport groups not to continue with the rally”. Why restrains the rally? Is it not fundamental right that needs to be respected? It’s not as if PISTTON was going to bomb any government institution. A level headed representative of the state should just let rallies roll on as regular run of democratic citizenship, unless they would be marching on the streets with AK-47s and time bombs strapped across their bodies. It’s just a regular transport strike that we have seen before. Of course, the militant mind would be quick to conclude that this is an inappropriate threat and harassment from the state. But there really is hostility hovering around this hindrance. At its heart is the public utility vehicle modernization program. LTFRB has put its foot down that regardless of the strike, they would be implementing the program; changing the jeepneys to million worth coaches of convenience. Understandably, the transport sector has raised realistic concerns on the proposed phase-out of the old and procurement of the new. The Filipino public would easily understand that this is not simple stubbornness but a restraint on resources. But the side of the state has exhibited a stubborn unwillingness to listen to the transport sector’s concerns, a single-mindedness on their own agenda, a contempt for any compromise which is called for in this sort of situation.

“My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.” James 1:19

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