By Ronnel Kien Bermas

PHOTO: The Philippine Star/Miguel de Guzman

Amidst the free ride programs provided by the government to the public, a group of bus drivers claimed that much of the promised P20-million payment for the “Libreng Sakay” service was not yet given, appealing to concerned agencies to heed their plea for action.

Joji Vizconde Jr., President of Buklod ng Manggagawa sa ES Transport Inc - National Federation of Labor (BMESTI-NFL), reported in an interview that laborers under ES Transport were dismissed without receiving full payment after staging a salary-related protest.

“Simula nung February, nag-ingay kami para sa sahod. Hindi pa rin nabibigay lahat, may mga utang pa at ang kapalit ay tinanggal kami sa trabaho hanggang ngayon,” Vizconde said.

Vizconde also said that the course of events remains uncertain, linking the lack of action from the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) to data privacy concerns.

“Hanggang sa ngayon po ay wala silang (DOLE) maibigay na dokumento sa amin dahil ang sinasabi nga ay puro data privacy… wala pa rin pong linaw,” he said.

Furthermore, the labor group head expressed how government agencies they approached ignored their complaints.

"Lahat ng ahensiya ng gobyerno ay tinutukan namin pero para pong nagbulag-bulagan at nagbingi-bingihan sa mga hinaing ng mga manggagawang nasa transport sector," he added.

With the continuing government inaction, Vizconde revealed that their group plans to hold another protest for the incoming Marcos Jr. administration.

“[Maglulunsad] ulit ng pagaaklas para sa bagong administrasyon na pakinggan po yung mga boses ng manggagawa dahil wala na po kaming makitang solusyon na kakampi ng mga manggagawa,” he said.

Formally called Service Contracting Program (SCP), the government’s “Libreng Sakay” has been allotted a P7-billion budget under the General Appropriations Act (GAA) of 2022.

According to the guidelines released by the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB), bus drivers were supposed to be paid weekly based on a “predetermined weekly amount” in line with their contracted route. 

Edited by Andreah Dianne M. Cartagena