State-owned mass transportation: For better or for worse?

Filipino national democrats like Renato Reyes, Jr., are proposing that a state-owned mass transport service be institutionalized as a replacement for the single-proprietor jeepneys. This is in response to the transport strikes particularly the Black Monday protest of jeepney drivers and operators last September 30, 2019. But will this make the transport system better or will this proposal just make matters worse?

While the proposal has merits, the current governmental system and behavior of those working in the government are not ready and could only make the matters worse. First, corruption is rampant and there is no assurance that the proposed state-owned mass transport service will just be used for private gains. For instance, how many government-owned corporations and government-run economic enterprises are living up to expectations and bringing in money and at the same time quality service to the public? Haven’t they all ended up depending on the general appropriations when in fact they should be earning? Even the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office is under scrutiny lately for questionable fund releases and expenditures in addition to the red flags of the Commission on Audit (COA) over the gaming office’s P10.17 billion funds.

Second, in reality, accountability is not yet fully embedded in the government structures. Will not this be a subject of abuse especially considering that those in government offices still think their position is a God-given right? How sure are we that the appointing officers will hire drivers based on merit? And how sure are we that the drivers who will be hired will perform their functions properly and not end up as a public official’s chauffeur during unofficial businesses?

Again, on accountability, has anyone observed the operations of the Light Rail and Metro Rail Transit systems? The government could not even ensure that the operators of these transit systems perform properly as per the contract and here we are adding more to manage?

Third, what will happen to those who will be affected — the small operators and the “karelyebo” of the jeepney drivers that will not be hired? What will happen to their livelihood? Should they just be treated as plain collateral damage?

We have working transportation laws. All we need to do is implement them. Jeepneys that haven’t pass the road worthiness test should not be allowed on the streets. In that way, the operators will be pressured to come up with better, and modernized, vehicles. Jeepney drivers who are not qualified and could not extend simple road courtesies should not be allowed to drive. In that way, we’ll have disciplined drivers. Third, existing government employees in the transportation department who could not perform their job well should be kicked out of office. In that way, we’ll have efficient and even pro-active government employees.

Should we add more?

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