The Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) and Malacanang announced on Tuesday, March 6, that the lead organizer of the transport strike, Manibela, failed to paralyze Metro Manila and that “it’s like the protest didn’t happen.” Manibela, on the other hand, claimed that its group, along with Piston, turned the National Capital Region into a “ghost town”. The protest is against the phaseout of the Philippines’ transport icon — the jeepneys.
But while both of them are savoring their perceived victories, the commuters who relied on jeepneys were forced to wake up earlier than usual to avoid getting late, had to line up on long queues, and bury themselves on mental stress worrying when will they reach their destinations. On the other hand, national agencies and politicians are enjoying their “free rides to fame” offering free transport services to commuters at the expense of the taxpayers’ money.
In short, while both the MMDA/Malacanang, and Manibela claim victory over the transport strike battle, both are actually losing the war with the spoils being siphoned in by the epals. Clearly, both the government and the jeepney drivers are using the wrong indicators of success — just like the perceived victory of the United States (US) during the Vietnam War. During said war, the US found it difficult to measure the territories they claimed because the Vietcongs were very good tunnel borers. For this reason, the US and the friendly forces relied on body counts of dead enemy soldiers as a success indicator. The problem, the counting led to inflating numbers because these included the dead civilians not taking part in the fighting. As the number of dead civilians increased, the “neutral” Vietnamese and even Americans were swayed by the narrative that the US and its allies are against all the Vietnamese people in general.
While the jeepney drivers are accorded by the Constitution their rights to express their grievances including the right to strike (Article 3, Sec. 4; Article 13, Sec. 3), the ultimate indicator of success in the exercise of their rights should not be paralyzing the transport sector. For the MMDA and Malacanang, neither is foiling the strike with threats of disenfranchising these drivers or rolling out government vehicles to give rides to stranded commuters a very good indicator of success. It’s just a vulcaseal solution to a worsening problem — the problem of the transportation system in particular, and that of governance in general. The proper metrics of success should be: That the parties (government and the transport strikers) are able to sit down together, qualitatively, and that they are able to come up with acceptable & actionable solutions for the benefit of the commuting public. Note that it’s not just the number of times the parties sit down together to discuss the issue but the quality of those meetings and discussions.