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Activists denounce Beep card fee increase

SAN PABLO, Laguna—Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) denounced the increase in the price of automated fare collection system (AFCS) cards used in Metro Manila trains, buses and jeepneys now costing P30.00 from the previous P20.00. 

Following the new year announcement of the increase, each new card costing P100 automatically charges P30, leaving the consumer with only P70 credit.

“This is an automatic fee increase that did not go through any public hearing. There is also no explanation in the contract why the private concessionaire is entitled to a fee increase,” Bayan secretary-general Renato Reyes said.

The fee increase is included in the current contract between the government and the private consortium AF Payments Inc. of the Ayala and Metro Pacific groups. 

“It is simply a profit guarantee for private interests. This is an onerous provision in the contract and goes against public policy,” Reyes said, blaming the previous Department of Transportation and Communication for the deal and the current Department of Transportation (DoTr) for its failure to review this provision of the contract.

Reyes said their alliance of progressive groups will ask the DoTr to say for the record if the private concessionaire has paid the government the P800 million transaction fee that it is supposed to pay. 

He revealed that in the private consortium’s current bid offer, it pays government only P278 million as gross availability payment, instead of a one-time P1 billion concession fee. 

“The private concessionaires will pay government P865 million only when beep card transactional volume reaches 750 million per quarter, a very high standard,” Reyes explained.

The activist leader believes that such a high transaction volume can only be reached towards the ninth or 10th year of the contract. 

“If so, this means that the private concessionaires have been profiting from the Beep card business even without paying the government any concession fee. This is another onerous provision in the contract,” he added.

Right off the AFCS contract’s implementation in October 2015, Reyes questioned its four-year renewal clause, asking “Why are the beep cards for MRT and LRT valid only up to December 2019? Because the AFCS private concessionaire plans to issue more expensive Beep cards by 2020.”

“By 2020, fares would have also gone up. Your P100 minimum card purchase may only be good for two rides,” Reyes claimed then.  

Reyes asks the Rodrigo Duterte government through the Department of Justice to look into the AFCS contract, charging it is lopsided in favor of big businesses and disadvantageous to commuters. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Utos ng Hari

ni R.B. Abiva

Halos sa pagtitinda ng tinapa binuhay ni Aling Ason ang kanyang mga anak. Sa kanyang pagkakatanda’y kulang apat na dekada na niya itong hanapbuhay. At dahil nga sa katatagan niyang hinarap ang lumuluray-puno ng pagpapasakit  na ganti ng hirap at dusa, napagtapos niya lahat ang kanyang mga anak sa hasykul. Subalit hindi na sila kailanman nakatuntong sa kolehiyo sa kadahilanang inatake sa puso ang kapilas ng kanyang buhay, at sa kasamaang palad ay namatay ito na hindi man lamang nabigyan ng marangal na libing. Lahat ng kanilang impok ay nagamit sa pagpapagamot. Ang masama pa’y nagkandautang-utang sila nang may mataas na interes.

Mula nga noo’y nagkawatak-watak na ang pamilya ni Aling Ason. Namasukan bilang bodegero ng bigas at mais ang tatlo niyang mga anak na lalaki sa Siyudad ng San Jose, Nueva Ecija habang ang dalawa niyang anak na babae ay naging mga muchacha sa San Miguel, Bulakan na paglao’y napilitang mamasukan din bilang mga GRO sa isang kabaret na tambayan ng mga pahinante ng trak na nagluluwas ng kung anu-anong kalakal paloob-palabas ng Maynila. Puro panganay ang mga naging anak at nang malaman ito ng kanilang Ina, wala itong ibang naitugon kundi mabigat-makapal na hagulgol at pagkuyom sa dibdib na puno-mayaman sa pasakit. At mula nga noo’y sinisi na ni Aling Ason ang Diyos at ang kapalaran.

Hulyo 29 ng taong kasalukuyan, isang umagang tirik na tirik ang araw na sinasasabayan pa ng alingasaw ng sanga-sangang imburnal at alingasngas ng mga mamimili, ay umalingawngaw ang megaphone na hawak-hawak ng empleyado ng munisipyo. May kasama itong abugado, mga pulis, traffic aid, at eskirol. Inanunsiyo nitong lahat ng mga may puwesto sa gilid ng Pamilihang Bayan ng Tarlak ay papalayasin na at nakatakdang gibain ang kanilang mga puwesto kinabukasan. Ito raw ang utos ng Hari na nakatala sa Memorandum Circular 2019-121. Marami ang naalarma sa pabatid publiko. Marami ang nabahala kung saan na sila lulugar. Marami ang nag-isip kung paano na ang kanilang pamilya na sa mumong ganansiya lamang sa pagtitinda umaasa. Maraming katawan ang ngayo’y aligaga at hindi mapagsalubong ang katwiran ng utak at kalam ng tiyan!

Bago magtapos nga ang nasabing buwa’y naganap ang inaasahan. Maagang dumating sa Pamilihang Bayan ang empleyado ng munisipyo, ang abugado at ang bando ng mga armadong pulis na may kasamang kalalakihan na nasasandatahan ng maso, bareta, martilyo, at kabra. Totoo ngang babaklasin na nila ang mga istruktura na ayon sa kanilang Hari’y iligal ang pagkakatayo. Nang mga panahong yao’y nasa palengke na nga si Aling Ason kasama ng kanyang mga panindang tinapa.

Sa malas nga nama’y siya pa ang unang sinita. Sinigawan siyang umalis na sa kanyang kinapupuwestuhan kung ayaw niyang masamsam ang kaniyang mga paninda. Sa gulat ay hindi nakagalaw ang matanda at wala itong ibang naiganti kundi isang mukha na puno ng bagabag at pagmamaka-awa  at tigalgal. Subalit bakal ang puso ng kanyang kaharap, linapitan lamang siya nito at hinablot nang malakas-pilit ang hawak nitong basket, na yari sa uway na puno ng tinapa. At dahil hamak na mas malakas ito sa matanda, bumagsak si Aling Ason kasama ng kanyang mga tinapa.

Dahil mahina-hina na ang tuhod ay unang lumagapak ang mukha sa marumi-basang sahig ng palengke, at nang i-angat ng matanda ang kanyang sarili’y tumambad sa madla ang duguan nitong ilong at bunganga. Nanginginig ang mga laylay na kalamnan nito habang lumuluha ang malabo na niyang mata. Usal niya sa may kapangyariha’y “ Parang awa niyo na, huwag niyong kunin itong aking paninda,” subalit ang tugon ng kaharap ay “ Katanda-tanda mo na’y hindi ka marunong sumunod sa batas! Mangmang! Hindi niyo na ba kami kinatatakutan?!” Akmang lalapit ang matanda subalit isang sampal-tulak ang kanyang natikman.

At ang mga sumunod na pangyayari’y naging laman nga ng balita. Nang umaga ngang yao’y nangagsisayaw ang mga anino, nag-iskrimahan ang mga braso-kamaong may hawak na kutsilyo-itak-tubo-kahoy, at umalimbukay sa mga kanal na tinangay naman ng hangin ang sanghaya ng dumanak na dugo ng mga anak ng araw. 

At bago nga lumubog ang araw at ganap na isilang ang takipsilim sa langit na siyang saksi, pinulot ang mga tadtad-warak-tumimbuwang na katawan ng mga mahihirap ng kani-kanilang mga kaanak. Ang isang katawang nakasubsob-basag ang bungo-butas ang leeg sa gilid ng latang basuraha’y ang naka-barong, naka-slaks, at naka-sapatos nang makintab na abugado. Walang pumapansin sa kanya maliban sa pulutong ng bangaw at langaw na sa kaniya’y nagpipiging. #

Oktubre 19, 2019, Lungsod Quezon, Maynila

Our struggle is not a spectacle

By Denver del Rosario

I was supposed to be in San Juan for work at around 2 pm. I left my house at noon like I always do because, oftentimes, that two-hour allowance is enough. But with the infernal Metro Manila traffic, expect the worst to happen.

I checked my phone. 3:57 pm. And I was still in Kamuning, far from where I was supposed to be. In an act of surrender, I told my editor a minute after that I won’t be pushing through with my coverage today. What should have been moments of productivity became time wasted on the road. I got off the bus, but then came a heavy downpour. I spent an hour in a fastfood restaurant to wait for the skies to clear and then I went out to wait for a ride home.

But then it was past five, and many people were trying to go home. To see buses jampacked with passengers was both frustrating and discouraging: frustrating because we don’t deserve this; discouraging because I wasn’t sure if I could get on a bus in this area with many people also waiting. So I chose to do the 40-minute walk to Philcoa. From there, I finally found a jeepney ride home.

This is the harsh reality many of us face where workers and students have no choice but to wake up a bit earlier in order to avoid the morning rush, only to find themselves still waiting for hours. Some say that the metro traffic is the great equalizer, but I call this bull—-. To say that is to be devoid of class analysis.

When the powerful and the influential romanticize the plight of the ordinary people by telling us that our daily sacrifice is the very definition of Filipino resilience and perseverance I don’t smile in gratitude, I rage. For our struggle is not a story of inspiration, but rather of gross neglect and plain arrogance, one where the grievances of the citizenry are easily ignored by those who should be listening and taking action.

Standing in the middle of an overcrowded bus while passengers still try to shove their way in is not a metaphor, so are burning railroads and dysfunctional trains. This is the reality of the masses, a never-ending cycle of waking up early and going home late while losing hope in the process. With these difficult circumstances, we have fallen into compromise; we don’t care anymore about safety and inconvenience, if the vehicle is too cramped, if the aircon is not working, because we all just want to go home.

It isn’t surprising to know that this denial of a mass transport crisis by the administration has earned the ire of the citizenry. Recently we learned about goverment officials telling us to be more “creative” when commuting, or that Superman is the only one who can save the day. When people shrug off their statements as comical relief instead of recognizing its plain insensitivity, this only manifests how much hypocrisy and incompetence we are willing to tolerate as a society just because we keep hoping change will happen. This is them not doing their mandate, and us willingly accepting that.

What government officials say is a reflection of the principles they hold in shaping public policy. For example, do we really expect a leader who catcalls female journalists and jokes about rape to strengthen laws regarding sexual harassment? Or an elected official who steals agricultural lands for profit to genuinely advocate for farmers? Go figure.

To the rich and the powerful, to hell with you and your uncalled-for sense of superiority. Your oppressing kind has the gall to tell us to hang in there as you look outside from your comfortable seats? Please. Our struggle is not a spectacle. 𝘞𝘢𝘭𝘢𝘯𝘨 𝘱𝘢𝘨𝘴𝘪𝘴𝘪𝘺𝘢𝘴𝘢𝘵, 𝘸𝘢𝘭𝘢𝘯𝘨 𝘬𝘢𝘳𝘢𝘱𝘢𝘵𝘢𝘯𝘨 𝘮𝘢𝘨𝘴𝘢𝘭𝘪𝘵𝘢. We don’t need your condescension; we need you to wake the hell up.

And to us who keep enduring hell, we have no other option but to carry on. We wake up early and go home late for we have bills to pay, mouths to feed, and dreams to fulfill. As we brave the metro traffic again, may we always remind ourselves that we should never settle for less, because we deserve more. But as we all know by now, we don’t wait for the world to change. We take action, rage on. #

(The author is a sports journalist. He has contributed stories to Kodao since his student days.)

Kodao Asks: Bakit kailangang itaas ang sahod ng mga empleyado sa pampublikong sektor?

Idinaos kamakailan ang “All Government Employees Unity Walk” sa Mendiola sa Maynila para manawagan ng dagdag sahod sa kanilang sektor. Kasabay nito, ipinagdiwang din sa isang kilos-protesta ang World Teachers’ Day kung saan libu-libong guro ang nakiisa.

Nagbigay saloobin sa Kodao Productions ang ilang mga pampublikong guro, manggagawang pangkalusugan at kawani ng pamahalaan kaugnay sa usapin ng makabuluhan at nakabubuhay na sahod. (Video nina Joseph Cuevas at Romie Malonzo/Kodao)


‘Sino ang mga nagpapalaya ng mga kriminal?’

“Ang lakas pa ng loob na sabihin na kailangan daw ng Oplan Tokhang para patayin ang mga rapist, para wala nang kriminal. Pero ngayon, sino ang nagpapalaya ng mga kriminal? Hindi ba’t ang gobyerno rin naman?”–Raoul Manuel, presidente, National Union of Students of the Philippines

PCOO: Mocha under jurisdiction of President

It seems only President Rodrigo Duterte can do something about Mocha Uson.

Officials of the Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) revealed at its budget hearing at the House of Representatives Thursday that, as a political appointee, only the President can decide on whether controversial Assistant Secretary on Social Media Esther Margaux “Mocha” Uson official stays or goes.

“[Assistant Secretary] Uson falls under the administrative jurisdiction of the Office of the President as a political appointee,” PCOO Chief of Staff and Undersecretary for Legal Affairs Marvin Gatpayat said.

At the hearing, Bayan Muna Representative Carlos Ysagani Zarate pressed PCOO Secretary Jose Ruperto Martin Andanar on what has been done over Uson’s many gaffes and posts that drew widespread criticism.

Asked by Andanar to reply to the question, PCOO Assistant Secretary for Operations and Legislative Affairs Ana Maria Paz Banaag said that Uson had been issued a memorandum by PCOO New Media and External Affairs Undersecretary Lorraine Marie Badoy to remind her of rules and policies for government officials.

“A small fact-finding activity was also held,” Banaag said.

Uson again drew widespread criticism of the Presidential Communications Group for her video endorsement of Duterte’s federalism campaign with a blogger that referred to vagina and breasts.

Banaag said that the PCOO officials and employees shall soon undergo gender-sensitivity trainings in response to the frenzy of criticisms it received from Uson’s video.

Questions about Uson drew the greatest interest among those who attended the budget hearing, eliciting laughter from even PCOO officials and staff present.

Arts and media alliance Let’s Organize for Democracy and Integrity (LODI) submitted to the committee a letter questioning the PCOO’s proposed PhP1.41 billion budget for 2019.

“Taxpayers bear the burden of paying for the PCOO’s work, whether it is done, not done, or not done well by the agency,” LODI explained.

The group asked if Uson and blogger Drew Olivar’s controversial video was taken inside the PCOO offices and of government personnel and facilities were used in filming, editing and uploading the video.

Explaining the official’s absence during the hearing to personally answer questions pertaining to her, Andanar said Uson is accompanying President Rodrigo Duterte in his official visits to Israel and Jordan.

Andanar made a quick exit and did not answer questions from journalists after the hearing. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)