Grab, Uber can’t vi­o­late rules no one can fol­low

Philippine Daily Inquirer - - OPINION -

Jakarta—“We can­not have one rule re­gard­ing col­o­rum for [Trans­port Net­work Ve­hi­cle Ser­vices (TNVS)] and an­other rule for... bus, UV ex­press, taxi and PUJ,” de­clared Land Trans­porta­tion Fran­chis­ing and Reg­u­la­tory Board (LTFRB) Chair Martin Del­gra III. But how can Grab and Uber be pun­ished over rules that are im­pos­si­ble to fol­low?

In 2015, LTFRB chair Win­ston Ginez le­gal­ized TNVS, the driv­ers or con­trac­tors and the apps that dispatch them. In July 2016, the LTFRB sud­denly sus­pended pro­cess­ing of TNVS cer­tifi­cates of pub­lic con­ve­nience (CPCs). This was “pend­ing re­view of ex­ist­ing poli­cies.”

The “re­view” was so thor­ough that the halt was in­def­i­nite and still in ef­fect to­day, a year later.

Grab and Uber are le­gal, but driv­ers are not—and have no way to be. TNVS CPCs are valid for one year and ex­pired dur­ing the “re­view.” Thus, last July 11, Grab and Uber each paid a P5 mil­lion fine.

Given this chaos, how can one name a driver with­out a CPC a law­breaker— LTFRB pre­cisely re­fused to process them! This re­calls the “no plate, no travel” pol­icy right be­fore Easter week­end in 2015, when many plates were not yet re­leased (“Is LTO’s ‘no plate, no travel’ rule un­con­sti­tu­tional?” 4/6/15).

First, con­sider due process. A law must be im­ple­mented justly and fairly. LTFRB can­not re­voke TNVS CPCs through a vague, in­def­i­nite sus­pen­sion. The pub­lic can­not even chal­lenge a re­peal never an­nounced.

And LTFRB con­fis­cates peo­ple’s jobs or means of trans­port with­out due process.

I had a mem­o­rable con­ver­sa­tion one Uber ride from Or­ti­gas to the Mall of Asia. I rode with a se­cu­rity guard who got a car loan and drove for Uber. He worked even longer hours to pay off the loan, but was proud to fi­nally own his busi­ness.

The LTFRB vi­o­lates due process and ba­sic fair­ness by sud­denly de­priv­ing the for­mer guard of liveli­hood, leav­ing him un­able to pay his loan.

Even ar­bi­trary in­ter­fer­ence with busi­ness mod­els vi­o­lates due process. Why ban surge pric­ing when taxi driv­ers de­man­dex­tra fares? Why set min­i­mum hours for driv­ers and de­stroy the ride-shar­ing con­cept?

This is not ab­stract phi­los­o­phy. In the 2009 White Light case, our Supreme Court struck down a Manila or­di­nance pro­hibit­ing mo­tel room rentals for less than 12 hours, to dis­cour­age “short time.” It de­cried a mea­sure that “need­lessly re­strains the op­er­a­tion of the busi­nesses of the pe­ti­tion­ers as well as re­strict­ing the rights of their pa­trons with­out suf­fi­cient jus­ti­fi­ca­tion.”

Sec­ond, con­sider our Con­sti­tu­tion’s prin­ci­ples.

Art. II, Sec. 20: “The State rec­og­nizes the in­dis­pens­able role of the pri­vate sec­tor, en­cour­ages pri­vate en­ter­prise and pro­vides in­cen­tives to needed in­vest­ments.”

Art. XIV, Sec. 12: “The State shall reg­u­late the trans­fer and pro­mote the adap­ta­tion of tech­nol­ogy from all sources for the na­tional ben­e­fit. It shall en­cour­age the widest par­tic­i­pa­tion of pri­vate groups, lo­cal gov­ern­ments and com­mu­nity-based or­ga­ni­za­tions in the gen­er­a­tion and uti­liza­tion of science and tech­nol­ogy.”

Art. XII, Sec. 6: “The use of prop­erty bears a so­cial func­tion, and all eco­nomic agents shall con­trib­ute to the com­mon good.”

The LTFRB swore to up­hold each line, writ­ten in the blood of pa­tri­ots.

Third, con­sider the eco­nomics of reg­u­la­tion. We can­not have laws for the sake of hav­ing them. As I wrote in “Uber: clash of law vs com­mon sense” (11/14/15), the apps de­liver ac­ci­dent-free, mug­ging-free, hy­gienic and odor­less ser­vice with­out reg­u­la­tion. Clearly, LTFRB reg­u­la­tion has neg­a­tive eco­nomic value. We must abol­ish the LTFRB, not the apps.

The les­son is to never be­lieve that law must halt the march of science or un­der­mine com­mon sense.

For­tu­nately, it is no longer up to the LTFRB’s er­ratic style. Sen. Grace Poe, Se­nate com­mit­tee on pub­lic ser­vices chair, has called for for­mal leg­is­la­tion on TNVS and will hold a hear­ing on Aug. 3.

Poe might have a fourth mind­set: Laws, like tech­nol­ogy, evolve. Re­call the movie “With Hon­ors”: “The beauty of the Con­sti­tu­tion is that it makes no set law other than faith in the wis­dom of or­di­nary peo­ple to gov­ern them­selves.”

———— Re­act: os­car­franklin.tan@ya­hoo.com.ph, Twit­ter @os­carf­b­tan, face­book.com/Os­carFranklinTan.

OS­CAR FRANKLIN TAN

SISYPHUS’ LAMENT

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