LTFRB: Libreng Sakay program PUVs can’t ferry supporters to rallies

·3 min read

SHOW cause orders await operators of public utility vehicles (PUVs) whose units are used to ferry supporters to and from campaign rallies while these are contracted under the government’s service contracting program called Libreng Sakay.

Eduardo Montealto Jr., director of the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board in Central Visayas (LTFRB 7), gave the stern warning on Thursday, April 21, 2022, after the agency was accused of refusing to issue special permits for volunteer vehicles that would ferry participants to the Ceboom Cebu Grand Rally of presidential candidate and incumbent Vice President Leni Robredo and her running mate, former senator Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan, in Mandaue City on the same day.

Montealto denied the allegations, although he admitted that there was a PUV operator who asked for a special permit to use 18 of the 40 units currently contracted for Libreng Sakay to ferry the supporters of the tandem to and from the venue.

Montealto said PUVs contracted under the program cannot be used for such activity and should not stop operating their routes and service plan.

The regional director added that only those PUVs not included in the service contracting program can ask for special permits should they volunteer to ferry supporters to campaign rallies.

Montealto said at least four PUVs were given special permits to ferry supporters to the Ceboom campaign rally, citing these as eligible since they were not part of the National Government’s Libreng Sakay program.

Just like the UniTeam Festival Rally of presidential candidate Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and running mate Sara Duterte-Carpio at the City di Mare, Filinvest Grounds at the South Road Properties in Cebu City last Monday, Montealto said there were 35 PUVs, such as buses, that were given special permits to ferry supporters to and from the venue.

Montealto said such PUVs applied for special permits since they were not part of the service contracting program.

He said it was just a coincidence that there are also about 20 buses under Libreng Sakay that are plying routes from the Cebu IT Park to the Il Corso mall in City di Mare.

He explained that as long as the PUVs are plying their original routes, regardless of the campaign rallies happening nearby and whoever will take the free rides, there is no violation since they do not change their routes in the absence of a special permit.

The regional director also clarified that private volunteer vehicles are no longer required to seek special permits from the LTFRB.

Breach of contract

Should PUV operators insist on using their contracted vehicles for campaign rallies, Montealto said this may lead to an issuance of a show cause order and possible sanctions.

“That is a breach of contract, so they can be issued a show cause order to explain for violating the service plan,” he said, adding that operators could possibly not be paid for their service depending on the outcome of their hearing.

Montealto stressed that the lightest possible sanction they could impose on the PUV operators is suspension.

He said PUV operators, however, could opt to end their contract under the service contracting program, should they want to volunteer their units.

As of Thursday, about 72 buses were plying provincial routes in Cebu Island, 40 of them in northern Cebu and 32 in the south.

Montealto said there were also about 20 buses plying routes in Cebu City and 50 modernized jeepneys plying the three highly urbanized cities of Cebu, Mandaue and Lapu-Lapu and other local government units in Metro Cebu.

He said the number of PUVs plying Cebu Island under Libreng Sakay will soon increase, as they are just awaiting the approval of the central office for other units to go onboard.

Under the service contracting scheme, the LTFRB pays transport operators and cooperatives that agree to field their vehicles to provide free rides to commuters.

The latest iteration of the Libreng Sakay program is the government’s response to the plight of commuters and PUV drivers and operators suffering from the successive increases in fuel prices as a result of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last Feb. 24.

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