NTC commissioners asked to inhibit from SMNI case

MANILA, Philippines —  The labor group Partido ng Manggagawa (PM) is seeking a yearlong exte nsion on the consolidation deadline for public utility vehicles (PUVs).

Instead of extending the deadline for just one month, the group said this should be lengthened to a year to make both the government and operators better prepared.

It added that the month-long delay in the implementation of the consolidation deadline only exposes the fact that the government is n ot ready for the consequences of the jeepney modernization plan.

“The government is not willing to admit the reality but it is aware that the public transport system will fail if the hard deadline for consolidation was enforced last Jan. 1. In fact, not only do jeepney operators and drivers stand to lose their means of livelihood but commuters stand to lose their means of transportation,” PM chair Renato Magtubo said.

PM claimed that about 140,000 drivers and operators could lose the ir source of living by Feb. 1 based on the estimate that 70,000 jeepneys have not consolidated. It noted, though, that traditional jeepneys with individual franchises have been allowed to continue operating in routes with less than 60 percent consolidation.

It is a different story in Eastern Visayas region, though, as the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) reported that 94 percent of PUV operators in Region 8 have already consolidated, as required by law.

This record, according to LTFRB regional director Gualberto Gualberto, puts Region 8 among the highest in consolidation-compliant sectors in the country and ensuring that the modernization program will be achieved in Eastern Visayas.

Records show that 3,480 units of the region’s 3,692 registered PUVs have consolidated since the Department of Transportation launched the PUV Modernization Program in 2017.

Gualberto said this explains why there has b een no transport strikes in any part of the region.

Josue Laudenio, one of the region’s transport operators, said that while it is very challenging for small operators to buy expensive modern units, they are willing to comply.

“We are here to get provisional authority to operate until we can borrow funds to acquire modern units. The old jeepney only costs P200,000 per unit, while the cheaper modern one costs P1.4 million,” said Laudenio, who leads a transport cooperative in Leyte.

Laudenio noted that some operators have yet to secure loans from government banks to acquire modern vehicles pending the completion of the local government units’ local public transport route plan (LPTRP).

The LPTRP is a detailed route network with specific modes of transportation and the required number of units per mode for delivering land transport services. The document will serve as the basis for the minimum requirement prescribed for the issuance of PUV franchises. –  Miriam Desacada, Romina Cabrera

MANILA, Philippines — After having monitored attempts by various persons to use the Philippine National Police against the government, PNP chief Gen. Benjamin Acorda Jr. yesterday ordered a crackdown on content creators spreading disinformation on social media platforms to destabilize the Marcos administration.

Acorda has directed the Anti-Cybercrime Group and other police units to intensify their cyber-patrolling to unmask the people behind moves to bring down President Marcos from power through social media.

Col. Jean Fajardo, the PNP chief publicist, said Acorda wants criminal complaints filed against those using the police organization to destabilize the government.

She warned that content creators using their platforms to destabilize the government and spread false information could be held liable for unlawful use of means of publication and unlawful utterances under Article 154 of the Revised Penal Code and for violation of Republic Act 10175, or the cybercrime prevention law.

Fajardo cited as an example the “General’s Opinion,” a YouTube channel with 104,000 followers claiming that generals from the PNP and Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) are convincing Marcos to resign.

The YouTube channel also used the photographs of Acorda, AFP chief of staff Gen. Romeo Brawner Jr. and Marcos. The video’s narrator claimed that even Marcos’ sister, Sen. Imee Marcos, is asking him to resign.

The narrator also read a text message supposedly from an unnamed individual warning of violence should Marcos opt to cling to power.

Fajardo urged people to be responsible in using their social media accounts and refrain from posting and sharing unverified information, particularly citing retired police and military officers who are critical of Marcos.

“They have the right to speak and we respect that. But we are also asking them to spare the PNP,” Fajardo said in yesterday’s press briefing at Camp Crame.

She assured the public that the 232,000-strong PNP remains apolitical, intact and professional.

“We will always uphold the Constitution and obey legal orders of the duly constituted authorities,” Fajardo stressed.

MANILA, Philippines —  Indonesian President Joko Widodo is set to visit the Philippines next week to meet with President Marcos in an engagement seen to reaffirm their commitment to boost the ties between Jakarta and Manila.

Widodo’s official visit will take place from Jan. 9 to 11, according to a Facebook post by the Presidential Communications Office (PCO).

“President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. is pleased to welcome His Excellency Joko Widodo, President of the Republic of Indonesia, for his upcoming official visit to the Philippines, scheduled on 9-11 January 2024,” a Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) statement shared by PCO read.

The two leaders’ meeting on Jan. 10 is expected “to take stock of the progress in Philippines-Indonesia relations” following Marcos’ state visit to Jakarta from Sept. 4 to 6, 2022, the DFA said. The state visit was Marcos’ first foreign trip as president.

“The two leaders are also expected to reaffirm their commitment to deepening and expanding Philippines-Indonesia ties, especially as the two countries will celebrate their 75th anniversary of formal diplomatic relations in November 2024,” the DFA said.

The DFA noted that the Philippines and Indonesia are founding members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), describing them as “close neighbors and partners that have enjoyed longstanding and robust cooperation in a wide range of areas in the political, economic, and people-to-people relations.”

During his meeting with Widodo at the Bogor Presidential Palace two years ago, Marcos said partnerships are needed to attain economic recovery and to maintain peace and stability in the region. He added that the Philippines views Indonesia not only as a neighbor and a friend, but as “kin.”

The two leaders also agreed to create task forces to meet their common goals and discussed the important role of ASEAN.

“And we agreed that ASEAN is going to be the lead agent in the changes that we would like to see in continuing to bring peace to our countries. And again the assistance that we have received from Indonesia has been a very important part of that,” Marcos said during the meeting.

Widodo, for his part, said Indonesia wishes to ensure that ASEAN “remains an engine of peace, stability, peace and prosperity in the region.”

They also agreed to strengthen trade relations and cooperation in infrastructure and strategic industries.

MANILA, Philippines — Lawyers of Sonshine Media Network International yesterday asked National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) Commissioner Ella Blanca Lopez and her two deputies to refrain from presiding over the case against SMNI.

In a motion to inhibit filed by SMNI lawyers Rolex Suplico and Mark Tolentino before the commission, they accused the NTC of acting as “the judge, complainant and executioner.”

Also asked to inhibit from hearing the case against Swara Sug Media Corp. were Deputy Commissioners Jon Paulo Salvahan and Alvin Bernard Blanco.

Suplico noted that that House of Representatives adopted House Resolution No. 1499, sponsored by Rep. Margarita Nograles which urged the NTC to suspend operations of Swara Sug Media under the business name SMNI, for allegedly violating the terms and conditions of its franchise under Republic Act 11422.

He added that on Dec. 12, NTC received a copy of HR 1499 and on Dec. 19, it issued a show cause order with a 30-day suspension against SMNI.

“On its face, the show cause order suffers from a fatal flaw. NTC is the judge, NTC is also the complainant, and NTC is likewise the executioner. This is comparable to a judge, who had filed a case in his own court, which he himself will execute,” the motion read.

According to Suplico and Tolentino, Lopez, Salvahan and Blanco should immediately inhibit themselves from hearing the case.

“If they insist on holding on to this kind of questionable arrangement that we believe is absolutely unjustifiable, we have no choice except to study the filing of cases against them, for which they may be held liable and accountable,” they added.

SMNI has asked the Court of Appeals to stop the NTC from implementing the 30-day suspension that the NTC imposed on the network for alleged franchise violations.

Suplico and Tolentino filed a petition for certiorari, asking for a temporary restraining order on the NTC order, which was issued on Dec. 21 and was immediately executory.

In the petition, SMNI said the order violated several provisions of the Constitution, including the right to due process and freedom of speech as well as the separation of powers.

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