Northern Mindanao voices: Urgent reforms, focus needed as Marcos enters 3rd year

by vyozella510681

CAGAYAN DE ORO, Philippines – As President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. enters his third year in office, Northern Mindanao’s public transport groups, labor advocates, LGBTQIA+ leaders, and anti-drug campaigners demanded focus and urgent action on reforms and unfulfilled promises that continue to impede their sectors.

They said they were still hopeful that Marcos would listen to their pleas before completing his six-year presidential term to improve the lives of Filipinos.

A local public transportation group in Cagayan de Oro, for instance, said it remains hopeful the Marcos administration would soften and consider their appeal to do away with the franchise consolidation component under the Public Utility Vehicle Modernization Program.

Since the franchise consolidation deadline two months ago, fewer public jeepneys are operating in Cagayan de Oro, displacing many drivers who relied on them for their livelihood.

In one community in Opol town, Misamis Oriental, for example, the number of jeepneys serving residents dropped from over a dozen to just two in May.

The consolidation has also increased costs for commuters. Previously, jeepneys took them directly to downtown Cagayan de Oro. Now, with fewer jeepneys and drivers finding other jobs, commuters must take motorcycle taxis to the highway, three kilometers away, to catch rides to Cagayan de Oro.

Joel Gabatan, chairperson of the United Drivers Association (UNIDA), stressed that they were into modernizing their jeepneys for the betterment of the riding public, but he said it was disheartening for individual jeepney operators to surrender their hard-earned franchises.

“Pila ka tuig among antos anang franchise sige bayad kada tuig, renewal pero pag-abot sa modernization, ibalhin lang sa coop. Wala nami gahom,” Gabatan told Rappler in an interview, emphasizing that all they want is for government to get rid of the franchise consolidation policy.

(We have been working for so many years for our franchises, paying every year for renewal, but when the modernization program came, it all went to the cooperatives. We no longer have the power.)

The deadline for franchise consolidation was April 30, and there was no extension provided.

The Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) had said that franchises for individual PUV operators who failed to consolidate had to be revoked, preventing them from operating their routes.

No major change

Meanwhile, a Cagayan de Oro-based labor leader said there were no major changes in the labor sector from past administrations until the leadership of Marcos Jr.

Lawyer Proculo Sarmen, the legal counsel of the Federation of Freedom Workers, told Rappler that the workers are having difficulty exercising their basic rights because of “labor-only contracting,” which he said is the same practice that former president Rodrigo Duterte promised to remove but failed to fulfill.

Sarmen said the government needs to strengthen policies to uphold the right of workers to self-organization, the right to collective bargaining and negotiation, and the right to stage strikes.

“Mao kana ang pagkaluluoy nga kahimtang sa mga trabahante,” he said.

(That’s the pitiful condition of the workers because without those rights, [the workers] are at the mercy of the businessmen and oligarchs),” he said.

He said Marcos should have a labor secretary who would remove  “anti-labor union department orders.”

What about the LGBT?

For a local LGBTQIA+ group, the Marcos administration should institutionalize national governnent-funded standard assistance programs, campaigns, and activities, to help their sector.

“We have not felt these. Hopefully, in the future, this would be included in their agenda,” Barbie Lindelle, president of the LGBTQ Federation of Cagayan de Oro, told Rappler.

She said there were livelihood grants and other campaigns intended for the community but these were insuffiicient.

On June 25, about 20 LGBTQIA+ members received P15,000 each in cash grants during the annual Pride Reception hosted by the Office of the Vice President in partnership with LGBT Pilipinas Incorporated. Other than that, they said there has not been much help from the national governnent.

The federation said it has intensified a campaign that promotes the welfare of the LGBTQIA+ sector in Cagayan de Oro with the help of the local government and other stakeholders, but not much from the national governnent.

Lindelle said the campaign includes an advocacy meant to make the Marcos Jr. administration see the “true value” of a bill against gender-based discrimination.

She said they were dismayed because the bill was excluded from the administration’s priority measures for passage in Congress before May 2025.

Non-violent drug war

The Citizens Crime Watch (CCW) in Northern Mindanao, an anti-crime and anti-corruption watchdog, also urged the administration to intensify a non-violent campaign against illegal drugs. The group said illegal drug activities have become rampant in the last two years.

Kennmarc Francisco, director of CCW Northern Mindanao, differentiated the anti-illegal drug campaign of Marcos Jr. from that of his predecessor, former president Rodrigo Duterte, who implemented a more focused but bloody approach to combat the drug menace.

CCW strongly criticized the extrajudicial killings that happened under the administration of Duterte.

“Dili pud ta maka-ingon nga napabayaan. Wala lang gyud natutoki sa insakto; wala mafocusi ang kampanya laban sa droga,” Francisco told Rappler.

(We cannot say that there is neglect. It’s just not being focused on; the campaign against drugs has not been given enough focus.)

But Brigadier General Ricardo Layug Jr., director of the Philippine National Police (PNP) in Northern Mindanao, said they have been intensifying their anti-illegal drug operations in the region.

He said this in a June 28 statement after police operatives confiscated P136,000 worth of alleged shabu in Barangay Igpit, Opol town, Misamis Oriental, on Thursday, June 27.

“Again, we will not tolerate illegal drug activities in the region,” he said. – Rappler.com

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