#2030Now: How a group of friends started lobbying for law on dignified commuting
MANILA, Philippines – One evening, while sharing a pizza, a group of friends decided to lobby for a law.
The friends talked about in the daily grind shared by many Filipinos who use private cars to avoid the unpredictable commute, or take public transportation to get to work or school.
"We had pizza at a friend's house, and we said, 'We're going to do something about this. Let's make a law'," said Ira Cruz of AltMobility at the 2019 Social Good Summit: #2030Now #InsightforImpact at De La Salle University in Manila on Saturday, September 21.
Cruz said they had no clue about making a law apart from the basics learned in school, much more, lobbying for one. But one thing was for sure: They needed to do something about the public transport situation.
At first, there were doubts. "First question that popped into our heads was, 'Why us? Will they take us seriously? What are our credentials?' Well, we're commuters. And who's the best to do it but commuters?"
For a city to function and for people to maximize opportunities within it, people must be able to get around. "Mobility should be empowering," said Cruz.
Weeks after the dinner conversation, Cruz and his group were at senators' offices. Shortly after, or on July 24, Senator Francis Pangilinan filed Senate Bill No. 775, or "The Dignity in Commuting Act."
There are now 4 pending bills aimed at improving commuting and protecting commuters: two in the Senate, and two in the House of Representatives.
The proposed measures seek to provide rights of commuters, such as the right to adequate, affordable, and alternative transport services; the right to breathe clean air during travel; the right to compensation amid public transport breakdowns; and the right to participate in the decision-making processes involving mobility and public transport.
The bill also calls for the creation of a National Office of Commuter Affairs under the Department of Transportation (DOTr).
Violators, such as transport franchises, vehicle owners, or public officials, can be punished with a maximum fine of P500,000, and suspension.
Since the bill was filed, Cruz and his associates have been invited to congressional committee hearings. Finally, commuters' voices were being heard.
With so many bills pending in Congress, Cruz remained uncertain about when the commuters' bill could be passed. What's important to him, for now, is that it was being talked about.
"Life's too short to be stuck, or worse, doing nothing. Let's talk about commuters naman," he said. (READ: 'Let's do actual things!': Commuters huddle on solutions to address traffic) – Rappler.com