Public to ‘suffer’ from ‘cruel’ suspension of Uber – senators

Camille Elemia
Public to ‘suffer’ from ‘cruel’ suspension of Uber – senators
(UPDATED) 'It does not solve the problem, but further exacerbates the problem of having an utter lack of safe, reliable, and convenient transportation options for our people,' says Senator Grace Poe

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – The public is the victim in the government’s decision to suspend transport network company (TNC) Uber for one month.

Senators said this after the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) penalized Uber for defying the board’s order, directing all TNCs to stop accrediting drivers into their systems. (READ: What’s the fuss about the Grab, Uber regulation issue?)

Senator Grace Poe, chairperson of the Senate public services committee, slammed the LTFRB decision, calling it “cruel and absurd.” She said she is set to call LTFRB officials to a meeting on Wednesday, August 16. (READ: Online outrage as LTFRB suspends Uber

Poe said the agency only made the situation much worse with its decision, as it disenfranchises close to 200,000 riders a day. 

“The decision of the LTFRB to suspend Uber is both cruel and absurd, to say the least. It does not solve the problem, but further exacerbates the problem of having an utter lack of safe, reliable, and convenient transportation options for our people,” Poe said in a statement.

Senator Joel Villanueva called on both parties to settle the issue immediately, saying the public will be left to “suffer.”

“At the end of the day, the riding public will suffer the most from a failure to reach a workable solution. We also want the LTFRB to clearly define the ‘predatory actions’ of Uber which warranted the suspension,” Villanueva said in a statement.

Suspension is too much?

Poe said the penalty is not commensurate to the “administrative” violation committed by Uber. Instead of suspension, the senator said the LTFRB should have introduced an “innovative” solution without harming riders. 

“The issue is not about roadworthiness but one that involves a mere administrative violation. Why can’t the LTFRB be innovative in coming up with an appropriate penalty that is fair and that will not prejudice the riding public? Is there no other less crippling penalty at our disposal? Thirty days is a long time,” Poe said.

“Could not the LTFRB just consider imposing a fine commensurate to whatever violation Uber has committed? Or at worst, just consider suspending the units that the agency said were accredited much later after having determined their identities?” she added.

Senate President Pro-Tempore Ralph Recto also thinks imposing a fine or suspending only the units “with so-called licensing deficiencies” would have been better.

“If the intent is to punish, then do it in a way that will hurt Uber, the company, and not the tired and harassed riding public,” he said. “So instead of suspension, can the penalty be in the form of a fine? If legally feasible, make it in the 7 figures again, as a painful reminder to comply with regulations.”

Recto added: “Uber can take a hit. A fine in the millions of pesos is more of a pinch for a global conglomerate which grossed $20 billion last year. It is not a big haircut, just the pulling of a few strands.”

While the LTFRB acknowledged the concerns of the riding public, the board said it was confronted with the issue of striking a balance between innovation and laws governing public transport services. (READ: Uber to LTFRB: Don’t impose ancient rules on technological innovations)

But the LTFRB said Uber’s actions were “not about pushing innovation in the context of fair regulation, but it is about unduly challenging the limit of fair regulation to continue to engage in business in this country, thereby compromising sound business practices.”

Aside from imposing the one-month suspension, the LTFRB warned that Uber would be held responsible for all accredited vehicles found accepting passengers during the suspension period. –

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Camille Elemia

Camille Elemia is a former multimedia reporter for Rappler. She covered media and disinformation, the Senate, the Office of the President, and politics.