All over our social media feed, we have seen enough about how the general public protested against the two day transport strike that, by most accounts, failed to cripple public transport in major cities.
News reports attest to transport groups harassing fellow drivers, and commuters disapproving of their actions and endorsing the PUV modernization program being pushed by government. (http://news.abs-cbn.com/news/10/17/17/piston-kinompronta-ang-mga-pumasadang-jeepney-drayber).
Moreover, we have seen the positive response to President Duterte's ultimatum against the striking transport groups.
What it does is push groups like PISTON and its leader George San Mateo into an increasingly small corner of influence. The erstwhile leader of the action found himself without his critical mass base.
Worse, by reacting negatively to the President's warnings, he stoops down to the personalist level and throws away any moral high ground he may have built among his constituents. By his reaction, the strike looks not like a valid grievance, but a political play. And their mass action, instead of serving them well, have come at a worse time. Here's why:
One, the emergence of ride-sharing services like Grab, UHOp, and Uber certainty benefits a public transport system long in the doldrums of rent seeking, shirking, and self-centered avoidance of duty.
Their entry shows that a good number of people are willing to pay more for better service.
Second, the recent emergence of electric jeeps and possible new forms of public transport like the beep card based P2P bus system, Euro 4 compliant jeeps and minibuses, and the proposed Metro Manila subway inspires many to support public sector modernization which is not unlike similar systems millions of OFWS use in cities like Hongkong and Singapore.
The clamor for such becomes louder as more videos of such conveyances are viewed by Filipinos on YouTube.
Third, reforms at the LTFRB already banned the trading of franchises that are the source of widespread corruption, forcing operators to pay up hundreds of thousands of pesos for the "right" to ply their routes. Moreover, recent programs like loans for availing of these new vehicles are alrready availed of by other transport networks.
Curiously, words and actions to deal with these strongly-felt issues were never championed by San Mateo. This leads many to wonder whether or not he and his peers benefitted from such wrongdoing, or whether or not they are the true voices of public transport franchisees.
As the advocacy for better public transport gains momentum, the corner for San Mateo keeps shrinking.
By their action, they succedded only in opening a can of worms that brings further discussion and clamor for transport improvements which they may not agree with, yet may be forced to adopt.
Perhaps the dialogue they seek with the President may finally open their minds to how others feel and think, leading to a better, safer system for all.