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Abaya, Ginez face graft for ‘illegal’ operation of Grab, Uber, U-Hop

Transportation and Communications Secretary Joseph Emilio “Jun” Abaya and Land Transportation Franchising Regulatory Board (LTFRB) chairman Winston Ginez are facing a graft complaint for allegedly allowing the operation of transportation network companies (TNCs) Uber, Grab and U-Hop.

In a 12-page complaint filed before the Office of the Ombudsman on Monday, Pascual “Jun” Magno Jr., representatives of the group Angat Tsuper Samahanan ng mga Tsuper at Operator ng Pilipinas Genuine Organization Transport Coalition (Stop & Go) Inc., said Abaya, Ginez and representatives from the TNCs must be investigated for violation of Republic Act 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.

The group said Abaya and Ginez conspired in “giving unwarranted benefit, advantages and preference” to the TNCs by allowing vehicles from these three companies to operate without the necessary franchise formally referred as the Certificate of Public Convenience (CPC) as required under Sections 15 and 18 of Commonwealth Act 146 or Public Service Act of 1940.

The group lamented that Abaya signed on August 5, 2010 a department order imposing a moratorium on the acceptance of applications for taxi franchises.

The group said Abaya signed another department order on December 10, 2010, directing the discontinuance in accepting applications for CPCs except for tourist cars, buses and jeepneys, vehicles for hire, school service vehicles and vehicles propelled by alternative fuels.

The group said that despite of these two directives, Abaya signed on May 8, 2015 another department order encouraging “innovations in public land transport…to respond to the needs of modern commuters.”

Legal justification

The group said Abaya’s issuance of the order was meant to give legal justification for the operation of TNC vehicles also referred as the transportation network vehicle service (TNVS) since the late quarter of 2014.

“The said Department Order No. 2015-011 provide a new form of public transport service called Transportation Network Vehicle Service (TNVS)…Clearly, it was tailored to suit the needs of TNCs and TNVS and the legalization of their previous and existing operations,” the complaint read.

“In effect, the Department Order allows units belonging to this form of public transport service to operate for hire even without Certificate of Public Convenience,” the complaint added.

Stop & Go alleged that Abaya also used his position and influence in persuading Ginez to sign in 2015 four memorandum circulars, which set the rules for the accreditation of TNCs as public land transportation provider.

The group said these memoranda further paved the way for the operation of the TNVS without the CPCs.

“It must be stated, briefly, that respondents must conduct hearings and an applicant must satisfy the requirements prescribed by rules and regulations before a Certificate of Public Convenience can be granted,” the complaint read.

The group said the continued operation of TNVS allegedly without franchise has caused massive losses to legally accredited public utility vehicle (PUV) operators and drivers.

“Many taxi drivers transferred to this TNVS as they could allegedly have relatively good income, passengers of taxis and AUV (action utility vehicle) Express decreased tremendously as commuting public tried the use of TNVS resulting to loss of income to operators and drivers of these taxis and AUV Express,” the group said.

The group said that while the DOTC and LTFRB are lenient with the operation of TNVS, they continue to deny the request for CPC of the ordinary PUV operators.

“Worse, the continued request of the complainant’s officers and members for the issuance of Certificate of Public Convenience/franchises were all denied by the respondents,” the group said.

“Masyadong apektado itong may mga prangkisa, legal na may prangkisa, lalo na itong mga taxi and AUV,” Moreno told reporters after filing the complaint.

Worsens traffic

The group added that the influx of TNVS is also contributing to the heavy traffic in Metro Manila.

“For the general public, especially in Metro Manila, the sudden influx of this TNVS, which is by the thousands, created sudden heavy traffic in the metropolis until at present,” the complaint read.

The group also pointed out that assuming the DOTC’s department order as well as the LTFRB’s memorandum circulars are valid, these only provide accreditation for the TNCs and not for the operation of their vehicles.

“Transportation network vehicle service is a form of public transport service, thus, units belonging to this form of public transport service need certificate of public convenience before it can operate,” the complaint read.

“No amount of accreditation or provisional authority to operate can replace certificate of public convenience under the law and existing jurisprudence. In other words the operation of transportation network vehicle service (TNVS) is illegal,” it added.

In a statement, Ginez dismissed the complaint as a “desperate move” by Magno and his group after they failed to secure an injunction from the court for the operation of the TNVS.

“After failing to convince the Regional Trial Court of Quezon City in granting his prayer for injunction against DOTC and LTFRB in implementing the Department Order and Memorandum Circulars creating TNVS as a new mode of public transportation, Mr. Magno is resorting to pernicious act of forum shopping to dissuade us from providing our commuting public with safe, reliable, convenient and comfortable transportation that is sanctioned by our existing transportation laws,” Ginez said.

“We are confident that just like the RTC of Quezon City, the Ombudsman will reject the baseless and unfounded allegations of Mr. Magno,” Ginez added.

GMA News Online tried to get a reaction from Abaya but he was not responding to calls and text messages. —ALG, GMA News