IATF as LTFRB’s big bad wolf

By July 20, 2021Punchline

By Ermin Garcia Jr.


WHAT a revelation that was by LTFRB when it unwittingly admitted that its policy compelling provincial buses operating in the central and northern Luzon to use the North Luzon Express Terminal exclusively (and not the bus companies own terminals), during the Question Hour of the Provincial Board, was the idea of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases! Not LTFRB!!

One quickly wonders what the IATF has to do with strictly business operations of bus companies. There is absolutely nothing about the bus companies use of their own terminals in Metro Manila that can possibly impact directly on health and safety protocols.

LTFRB already lifted the 50% maximum occupancy on condition that the buses install plastic barriers between seats. It’s the same policy being adopted by the city carousel buses operating along EDSA. But these buses and jeepneys are not compelled to use one exclusive terminal.

So, why is the case different for bus companies operating in central and northern Luzon?

Aah… the difference lies in the financial terms for the use of the NLET by bus companies that are mind-boggling: NLET will reportedly assess bus companies P100,000 per slot monthly for boarding and disembarking passengers. Consider one bus company alone that has four provincial terminals and schedules an hourly departure. It will require at least  5 slots . If there are 7 bus companies operating out Pangasinan alone, that’s easily P3.5M monthly without lifting a finger. Add the other bus companies from Pampanga, Tarlac, La Union, Ilocos Norte, Ilocos Sur, Nueva Ecija, Isabela, Cordillera, etc.

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ROUTINE RESOLUTION. I have reason to believe that the IATF is not aware of the financial windfall that the owners of the NLET will earn from that seemingly routine IATF resolution to promote health and safety protocols.

It is likely that the DOTr-LFTRB convinced the IATF that controlling movements of passengers is crucial  to check the spread of the  Covid infection. And that was it. The resolution was passed routinely to address the concerns and recommendation of DOTr-LTFRB  –  to compel bus companies operating in the north to only use the NLET on a point-to-point system, effectively disallowing bus companies to use their terminals in Metro Manila.  

If the IATF does not recall the resolution soon, woe is Sec. Francisco Duque III! He  and members of the IATF will be suspected of sharing a percentage in NLET’s bonanza.

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MORE PUNCHERS FOR 65. Last week, we inadvertently missed out on more names who lent themselves to make The PUNCH what it is today.  Well, memories do fail after 65 years!

Allow me to thank Nora Dominguez, Michelle McKormick. Anna Lisa Leyba, Charles Tabayoyong, Peewee Garcia, Rosalie Agas, John Paul Ragos, Jaime Meneses and Donato Perez who spent time with us to share their talents and integrity.

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POLITICS IN PANDEMIC. Even the Covid pandemic cannot stop politics from rearing its ugly head in Dagupan.

The DOH office in region 1 was surprised to receive a letter from Dagupan Mayor Brian Lim. No, it was not simply a letter congratulating and thanking the DOH’s efforts for its invaluable contributions to the successful rollout of vaccination in the city.

Mr. Lim made known his “vehement opposition” to the recommendation of the Dagupan Doctors Villaflor Medical Hospital to make the Dagupan City Transport Terminal along the De Venecia Expressway as another vaccination site in addition to the Dagupan Astrodome. 

DOH was at a loss. It couldn’t understand the objection because to have a second vaccination site is beneficial to a local government because the rollout of vaccines is time-bound. 

The need for a second site is necessary once the expected big volume of vaccines arrive in the city to be administered to thousands daily. Vaccines have prescribed limited shelf life and if not administered immediately, the vaccines will go to waste.   

But here is Mayor Lim objecting to it. Of course, Dagupeños know and are aware of what’s happening. Mr. Lim is opposed to the designation of the terminal because it is reportedly owned by former Mayor Belen Fernandez.  

Obviously, to Mr. Lim, the seeming political implications of the terminal as the second site is totally  unacceptable to him, and any other concern is secondary, not even the urgency of administering the vaccines quickly and fast can take precedence.  

Mr. Lim should have instead take it as an opportunity to demonstrate his maturity and how he has since evolved in to a statesman, having served as World JCI president. By objecting to the designation of the terminal as second site only showed his lack of understanding and concern for the pandemic. 

I surmise, Mr. Lim fears that having the terminal as vaccination site will afford Mayor Belen a publicity op that she doesn’t deserve. Even assuming that such an opportunity would be available to the Ms. Fernandez, to see Mr. Lim visiting the and overseeing the vaccination at the terminal (perhaps accompanied by Ms. Fernandez) will boost his image as a mature politician.  

But it’s not to be. Tsk-tsk.

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7TH LIBEL CASE DISMISSED.  I received a copy of the court decision dismissing finally the libel cases filed by the City State Savings Bank against The PUNCH (eight of us, never mind that the story was edited by me alone and caused the publication of the story in question by me).

That case was file filed seven years ago! Thankfully, The PUNCH had magnificent lawyers to represent us pro bono, led by lawyers Harry Roque (presidential spokesman na po), Romel Bagares (former Phil.Star reporter), Joel Butuyan (also Inquirer columnist) and Atty Zhai Garcia (a young lawyer who died during the pendency of the case).

Judge Rolando Mislang, who was familiar with The PUNCH having served as a judge in Dagupan City in the past, had already dismissed the case, but this was appealed by the complainant.

The complainant was represented by celebrity lawyer Ferdinand Topacio.

The dismissal is definitely another vindication for us. To my recollection, it’s the 7th libel case filed against The PUNCH through the years, and the 7th dismissed by the courts without any trial.

To God be the Glory!

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JOURNALISTS NOT ENTITLED. Speaking of the journalism practice, the Reporters Without Borders recently came out with a statement that tagged President Duterte as one of the Press Freedom Predators in the world.  

It’s obviously influenced by reports from the opposition and Rappler all because Maria Ressa was convicted of libel based on a complaint filed by a businessman. The implication is the officialdom was behind it.  

The tag is malicious and gives the wrong signal to journalists. To be sued for libel is a recourse made available by the Constitution to news subjects who feel wronged by an article. In short, journalists should not feel entitled  to believe they cannot be made accountable for his/her reports.     

Press freedom is never an absolute freedom. It goes with responsibility and accountability.  

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