Two days before Christmas and with thousands of Metro Manila denizens on vacation outside the metropolis, MRT riders experience a rare comfortable ride to their destinations on Tuesday, December 23. Malacañang on Monday stood firm on the government’s decision to raise fares of the Light Rail Transit (LRT) and the Metro Rail Transit (MRT) amid calls from some senators to defer the fare hike scheduled on January 4, 2015.(MNS photo)

Two days before Christmas and with thousands of Metro Manila denizens on vacation outside the metropolis, MRT riders experience a rare comfortable ride to their destinations on Tuesday, December 23. Malacañang on Monday stood firm on the government’s decision to raise fares of the Light Rail Transit (LRT) and the Metro Rail Transit (MRT) amid calls from some senators to defer the fare hike scheduled on January 4, 2015.(MNS photo)

MANILA (Mabuhay) – A group led by party-list lawmakers on Tuesday asked President Benigno Aquino III to use his “power to control” to stop the controversial fare rate hike ordered by the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) for the mass rail transit system in Metro Manila.

The petitioners ran directly to Aquino after the group failed to secure a temporary restraining order from the Supreme Court last week. They have filed a petition against DOTC Order No. 2014-14 delineating the fare increase for the Light Rail Transit (LRT) and the Metro Rail Transit (MRT).

“With no immediate relief in sight for the riding public, we look forward to President Aquino to respond favorably to our petition and provide respite to the fare hike while exploring ways to spare commuters of the burden of the rate adjustments,” said Akbayan Rep. Barry Gutierrez.

“In addition to the constitution, the powers of the President are also provided by the Executive Order No. 292, s. 1987, otherwise known as the Administrative Code of 1987. Specifically, Book III, Title I, Chapter I, Section 1 gives the President the ‘mandate of control’ or ‘power of control’ over all the executive departments, bureaus, and offices,” he added.

Gutierrez, a former University of the Philippines law professor and head of the Institute of Human Rights (IHR), said the President has control over all executive departments, bureaus, and offices.

He is joined in the petition by fellow Akbayan Rep. Walden Bello and student council leaders from various universities as well as sector leaders from several people’s organizations.

“President Aquino has the power to immediately suspend, if not put a permanent halt, to the implementation of fare hike. President Aquino is well within his mandate if he decides to put on hold the fare hike adjustment, pending a comprehensive review of the scheme and its impact on the riding public,” Gutierrez said.

In its first en banc session this year, the Supreme Court decided not to issue a TRO against the LRT-MRT fare increase, and instead ordered DOTC Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya, LRT Authority Administrator Honorito Chaneco, MRT 3 Officer-in-Charge Renato San Jose, the MRT Corp. and the Light Rail Manila Consortium to comment on the group’s petition.

The group said: if the fare hike implemented on January 4 could not be stopped, then the employers of those who take the MRT and LRT in their daily commute should be compelled by government to compensate their employees who were indirectly compelled by the DOTC order “… to shoulder” the fare increases.

“The government can ask the Regional Tripartite Wage and Productivity Board of the National Capital Region (RTWPB-NCR) to implement a Cost-of-Living Allowance (COLA) adjustment of P13 pesos to incorporate the added transportation cost,” Gutierrez said.

“Big business can also opt for voluntarily procurement and issuing of MRT stored value cards to their employees. Provision of other transport benefits is also possible, including corporate sponsored transport services via company service vehicles. To be fair, the government can then work out reasonable fiscal incentives to participating companies,” Gutierrez added.

Government should also seriously study a targeted subsidy to minimum wage earners via discount cards or worker tax credits, he said. (MNS)