By Christopher Lloyd Caliwan and Raymond Carl Dela Cruz

BUSINESS AS USUAL. Traditional jeepneys plying the Commonwealth Market-Marikina City-Marcos Highway route wait for passengers at the Commonwealth Market terminal in Quezon City on Tuesday (Jan. 16, 2024). Most drivers at the terminal said they support the government’s Public Utility Vehicle Modernization Program but respect the sentiments of their colleagues opposed to it. (PNA photo by Ben Briones)

MANILA – The Philippine National Police (PNP) on Tuesday denied reports that they blocked some drivers of public utility vehicles (PUVs) who wanted to join the protest caravan against the government’s modernization program.

In a press briefing in Camp Crame, PNP spokesperson Col. Jean Fajardo said the reported blocking in Bacoor, Cavite, and Malolos, Bulacan were actually operations to assist the Land Transportation Office (LTO) crackdown against colorum and out-of-line PUVs.

The apprehended vehicles could not show the documents requested by LTO while those without special permits voluntarily turned around so as not to be issued citation tickets, Fajardo said.

“Hindi sila hinarang. Katulad ng sinabi ko, this is normal deployment ng PNP, ‘yung random checkpoints, mga police visibility (They were not blocked. Like what I have said, this is normal deployment of the PNP, the random checkpoints, police visibility),” Fajardo said.

Fajardo said the PNP deployed some 5,000 police officers and 175 mobility assets to assist commuters who might be affected by the protest against the Public Utility Vehicle Modernization Program (PUVMP).

Based on the PNP monitoring as of 1 p.m., about 500 individuals and 151 PUVs joined the protest caravan which commenced from the University of the Philippines-Diliman in Quezon City.

“So far wala pa naman tayong na-itatalang any untoward incidents. Sana magtuloy-tuloy po ito at kagaya ng sinabi ng ating chief PNP (Gen. Benjamin Acorda Jr.) kahapon (So far we have not recorded any untoward incidents, I hope this continues and as our PNP chief said yesterday), we will exercise maximum tolerance,” she added.

Don’t hamper travel

Meanwhile, the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) said it is now investigating reports of blocked roads during the first day of the protest caravan by groups MANIBELA and PISTON.

In a statement, LTFRB chairperson Teofilo Guadiz III said there were reports of workers and passengers being blocked from traveling from nearby provinces to Metro Manila.

“Passengers on the way to their workplaces within Metro Manila are being blocked on roads and highways,” Guadiz said.

These disruptions, he said, are against the LTFRB’s thrust to provide safe, convenient, and unhampered travel for commuters.

“Rest assured, the LTFRB will look into these reports and impose possible sanctions on individuals or groups behind these incidents,” he said.

He called on public utility vehicle (PUV) drivers and operators who joined the nationwide protest to refrain from preventing other PUV drivers from making a living.

“They need to provide for their families and commuters,” he said.

In a message to reporters, LTFRB spokesperson Celine Pialago clarified that the persons or groups who blocked roads are yet to be identified.

“May mga humaharang naman po sa jeepney na hindi kasali sa rally (It seems there are those who blocked jeepneys who are not part of the rally),” Pialago said.

Aside from these disruptions, the Manila Police District (MPD) reportedly blocked protesters at Welcome Rotonda in Quezon City from going to Mendiola, Manila.

The blockage was said to have been a precaution based on previous disturbances caused by the protesters. (PNA)