SC urged to resolve petition vs MRT, LRT fare hike

By , on November 23, 2017

Supreme Court of the Philippines (Photo: Philippine News Agency)
Supreme Court of the Philippines (Photo: Philippine News Agency)

MANILA— Party-list group Bayan Muna on Thursday filed a motion before the Supreme Court (SC) to act on their plea seeking to nullify the fare increase implemented at the Metro Rail Transit 3 (MRT3) and the Light Rail Transit Lines 1 and 2 as well as order the refund to the commuting public the money collected from the said fare hike.

In a six-page motion to resolve filed by petitioners led by Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate, the group urged the high court to resolve the consolidated petitions seeking to nullify and enjoin the government from further implementing the Department of Transportation and Communications Order 2014-04.

“Should the Honorable Court find with the Petitioners and declare the absolute nullity of the assailed Department Order No. 2014-014 [that implemented the fare hike], an across-the-board refund to the riding public is likewise prayed for as part the reliefs just and equitable under the premises,” read the motion.

The department order paved the way for the hike of the base fare from PHP10 to PHP11 for both the Metro Rail Transit and the Light Rail Transit with additional PHP1 for each kilometer starting January 4, 2015.

As a result, the maximum fare on the train lines went up to between PHP28 to PHP30, from the previous PHP15 to PHP20.

Bayan Muna told the high court that the series of tragedies that struck MRT is proof that the fare hike has not actually served its purpose.

“Despite the much-questioned and much-protested fare hike, continues to give its passengers poor and unsatisfactory service,” petitioners said.

“It continues to experience technical problems that endanger the safety of the riding public. News about its malfunctions has now become so common and complaints from the public have been increasing,” petitioners added.

Under the rates being questioned, passengers of LRT Line 1 from Baclaran in Pasay to Monumento in Caloocan City and vice versa are now paying PHP30 for single journey tickets and PHP29 for stored value tickets, from the maximum PHP20 fare.

Passengers of the new LRT Line 2 from Recto in Manila to Santolan in Pasig and vice versa are paying PHP25 for single journey tickets and PHP24 for stored value tickets, from PHP15 while those taking up the MRT 3 from North Avenue in Quezon City to Taft Avenue in Pasay City and vice versa are paying PHP28 from PHP15 for stored value and single journey tickets.

Currently, the MRT is experiencing a daily breakdown. Last week, a coach detached from the train prompting the evacuation of over a hundred passengers. A woman also almost lost her arm when it was caught in the MRT-3’s coupler.

Bayan Muna also mentioned the termination of the P3.8-billion MRT3 maintenance contract with Busan Universal Railway Inc. (BURI) due to the latter’s alleged non-performance and inefficiency and the filing of plunder raps before the Office of the Ombudsman against some Cabinet members of former President Benigno Aquino III over the allegedly anomalous maintenance deal.

“The worsening condition of our rail system in spite of the implementation of the fare hikes only proves the correctness and validity of petitioners grounds for their opposition to the 2015 LRT/MRT fare hikes, as embodied in the Department Order No. 2014-014 of then DOTC,” the motion read.

“In essence, the petitioners argued that the unilateral imposition of the fare hike is a violation of the riding public’s right to due process; that the fare hike was without sufficient factual basis; and that the fare hike is unjust and unreasonable and contrary to public policy,” it added.

The other petitioners in the case are the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan, former Iloilo Rep. Augusto Syjuco and the United Filipino Consumers and Commuters Inc. (UFCC).

Named respondents in the consolidated petitions were then Transportation Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya, MRT3 and LRT officials, Metro Rail Transit Corp., and the Light Rail Manila Consortium.

In its original plea, the petitioners said Abaya, then LRTA Administrator Honorito Chaneco, then MRT 3 Officer-In-Charge Renato San Jose and the Light Rail Manila Consortium of Ayala and Metro Pacific and MRT Corporation committed grave abuse of discretion when they implemented the fare increases without the benefit of a public hearing of consultation.

Likewise, they also questioned the “devious timing” of the publication of the fare increases last December 20, 2014 during the period of Christmas festivities and timed its implementation on the first Sunday of 2015, thereby, depriving the public an effective remedy against the fare hikes.

They also question the reason cited by Abaya as the reason for fare increases noting that he changed his earlier pronouncements from being to lessen the government subsidy for the mass transit system and realigning these “savings” to development projects and relief operations outside of Metro Manila to improved services for LRT and MRT riders.