MANILA — Amid numerous problems besetting taxi passengers, a Nationalist Peoples Coalition (NPC) congressman on Monday asked officials of the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) and Philippine National Police (PNP) to take a taxi ride to see for themselves the daily woes of ordinary commuters.
Valenzuela City Rep. Sherwin “Win” Gatchalian issued the challenge to LTFRB and PNP officials in wake of robbery and rape incidents being committed by taxi drivers who apparently did not pass through strict background and security check by their operators.
“It would do well for the LTFRB and PNP if some of its officials will try a taxi ride going to their office or returning to their homes so they can see how difficult it is for ordinary commuters to get a taxicab during this season,” said Gatchalian.
He pointed out that female taxi passengers are most vulnerable to robbery and rape by their very own taxi drivers as shown in recent incidents in Quezon City and Manila.
“Female taxi passengers are in a ‘Catch-22’ wherein they have a hard time getting a taxi ride especially during this Christmas season. And when they do get a ride, the possibility of being robbed and worse, getting raped is there,” said Gatchalian, who recently filed a bill that defines the rights of taxi passengers.
Over the past weeks, at least three incidents of robberies perpetrated by taxi drivers were recorded in Quezon City, the latest of which happened in Barangay Pinayahan wherein the victim was identified as Floramae Alberto.
Alberto took a taxi from Magallanes, Makati and was going to Mother Ignacia in Quezon City when the driver stopped in Barangay Pinyahan and asked to be excused so he could relieve himself.
It was during this time that he announced the holdup and took the victim’s bag and cell phone.The driver then left the scene, leaving Alberto behind.
Last November 24, a woman passenger was shot four times by the driver of a Ken taxi she was riding. The victim “Claire” said the driver declared a hold-up upon reaching the gate of the PNP headquarters in Camp Crame.
A bus passenger then helped bring Claire to the hospital. Meanwhile, a woman and an MMDA traffic enforcer were also robbed by a driver of a Villegas taxi on the same day, according to reports by the Quezon City Police District.
About two weeks ago, elements of the Manila Police Department arrested a taxi driver who was the principal suspect in raping a 17-year-old female student with the help of an accomplice who was hiding in the front seat.
Gatchalian had earlier urged LTFRB Chairman Winston Ginez to come out with stiffer penalties on taxi operators who fail to conduct the necessary background and security check on driver-applicants before they are given employment.
The veteran lawmaker is pushing for the swift passage of House Bill No. 3681, to be known as the “Bill of Rights of Taxi Passengers,” which seeks to impose fines and penalties on erring taxi drivers who are the subject of numerous complaints especially during Christmas season.
Gatchalian pointed out that the countless complaints he received from his constituents and friends prompted him to file the “Bill of Rights of Taxi Passengers” and push for its approval in Congress.
Violating taxi drivers will be liable with their operators and will face a fine of at P500 to 2,000 for the first offense; P1,000 to 5,000 for the second, and; a minimum of P3,000 up to P10,000 as well as one-week suspension of the driver’s license and/or certificate of public convenience for the third and subsequent offenses.
Gatchalian said the LTFRB can actually enforce the duties and obligations of taxi drivers and operators enumerated in H.B. 3681 if the agency really wants to protect taxi passengers from abusive drivers.
“In the absence of a law, the LTFRB can exercise its authority over taxi drivers by making it mandatory for them to prominently display their ID cards inside the cab so passengers would immediately know the identity of abusive drivers,” Gatchalian stressed.