Court battle looms on tricycle unions

A court battle looms as the City Council will contest the rejection by the Provincial Board of an ordinance seeking mandatory membership of tricycle drivers with a legitimate association of their kind.

Provincial Board says  it is unconstitutional to force anyone to join an organization. But the City Council said that tricycle drivers’ mandatory membership is part of regulating the tricycle industry because there are so many colorum illegal drivers plying the streets using tricycles not their own.  Some are being sub-leased.

In order to  police their ranks, from possible criminals and terrorists plying posing as tricycle drivers, the city ruled that all drivers must be members of any tricycle group that can monitor their legitimate members.

Notice also was given  that there are tricycles from other towns being driven around the city. With this organizations of drivers of as many groups, their drivers can be monitored and can be fined heavily if driven by colorum  drivers.

Members of the City Council expressed dismay over the decision of the Provincial Board to declare null and void the city ordinance that mandates all tricycle drivers to become members of associations before they are allowed to convey passengers.

Earlier the Provincial Board disapproved the ordinance that mandates all tricycle drivers to become members of associations on the grounds that it violates the constitutional right or freedom of an individual to association.

Both Vice-Mayor Franklin Esmeña Jr. and Councilor Manuel Arbon requested the Secretariat to ask for a reconsideration or repeal of the action of the Provincial Board.

Councilors Lilani Ramon and Estanislao Alviola lamented the action of the Provincial Board especially for not holding consultation with the tricycle drivers, stakeholders and the City Council before they decided to disapprove the city ordinance and declared the same as null and void.

Ramon stressed that the intention of the ordinance is to ensure the safety of the riding public considering that many teenagers especially girls are at risk of being sexually assaulted by drivers or extradors, many of whom are not from Dumaguete City, and could not be apprehended due to the absence of a system that will establish their identities and moral character.

She added that it would have been better that the Provincial Board checked on the police records of some malfeasance and even assaults perpetrated by erring and abusive drivers before deciding to disapprove the ordinance.

Councilor Agustin Miguel Perdices inquires if the Provincial Board is the proper authority to determine the constitutionality of any ordinance considering that these questions are normally settled by the courts particularly the Supreme Court as the final arbiter of legal disputes.

Councilor Alan Gel Cordova rejected the assertion of the Provincial Board in invalidating the ordinance saying that the mandate for tricycle drivers to become members of an association before they are allowed to practice their trade skill is consistent with the exercise of police power of the LGU to promote public safety.

He added that no one is forcing any person to become tricycle drivers but once he or she chooses to be one, that person can be compelled to join an association as part of regulation so that the officers of the association can vouch for their character and integrity.

“By analogy, no one can be forced to become a lawyer but when one does, the Supreme Court mandates that the legal practitioner should be a member of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines which sets the standards in the practice of law,” Cordova pointed out.

He stressed that there are 3, 000 tricycle drivers in the city, some of whom drive at night or extradors, and amid the reports of abuses and other traffic related offenses, authorities have a hard time identifying and apprehending the bad drivers because many of them are not members of associations duly accredited by the city government. It is noted that the ordinance was passed upon the suggestion of the tricycle drivers themselves as a means to weed out the bad elements in their ranks.

Finally, the City Council also expressed doubt whether the Provincial Board’s action was valid considering that it took the higher body more than 30 days to act on the ordinance.

Per records of the secretariat, the ordinance was passed on November 14, 2018 and was submitted to the Provincial Board on November 16, 2018 after Mayor Felipe Antonio Remollo signed it for approval. But the Provincial Board began deliberation on January 14, 2019 or nearly two months after and finally disapproved it on February 6, 2019.

“By operation of law, that requires the reviewing body like the Provincial Board to take action (approve or disapprove) on a pending ordinance within 30 days, the ordinance is already effective and enforceable,” Cordova concluded.