Duterte tells transport group Piston, be ready for rubber bullets

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte did not mince words when he again warned transport group Piston about continuing its protest of the government's jeepney modernization program.

In a speech on Tuesday, December 12, Duterte said he would deploy the military and police to manage Piston protests. Protesters, he said, should be ready to face rubber bullets and truncheons.

"Itong Piston, hindi raw sila magsunod. Sige, subukan natin. (This is Piston, they said they wouldn't follow. Okay, let's try them.) I'm preparing the Armed Forces and police to buy rubber bullets, prepare for truncheons," said Duterte.

The President, with his penchant for harsh words and threats, said he is raring for a fight with the group.

"That is what I like, we go best in turmoil. Talagang guguyurin ko mga sasakyan ninyo (I will really drag away your jeeps)," he said.

Like in his previous remarks, Duterte said the jeepney modernization program is needed to lessen air pollution in the country's urban areas.

"We all know we are being killed, almost everybody, slowly. You can see the fumes. You should see Manila at sunset. It's not mist, but you see it floating all over the city – that's fumes," said Duterte.

His latest remarks are a progression of his insistence that Piston, Kilusang Mayo Uno, and other groups that joined the transport strikes were committing "rebellion" as the "legal fronts" of the Communist Party of the Philippines.

He had also threatened to drag away their vehicles if they do not comply with the Public Utility Vehicle modernization program.

The Senate committee on public services held a hearing on Monday, where chairman Senator Grace Poe cited calculations that showed operators would lose in the government's bid to modernize the country's jeepney fleet if all the government could offer was an P80,000 subsidy per unit. 

Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade discussed in the hearing a 3-year transition period for the jeepneys, as opposed to President Duterte's threat last October that jeepneys that don't modernize by end-2017 would be removed from the roads. – Rappler.com

Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada is a senior reporter for Rappler covering Philippine politics and environmental issues. For tips and story suggestions, email her at pia.ranada@rappler.com.

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