MANILA - (UPDATED) Jeepney operators and drivers went on strike on Monday as the country's transport regulator said it could be part of a "destabilization" plot against the government.
Classes and work in government offices were suspended while financial markets were shut because of the 2-day strike. Transport group PISTON is protesting the government's modernization program, which it said could mean the phaseout of jeepneys.
Traffic slowed down in Monumento, Caloocan where protesters gathered on Monday morning, video from ANC showed.
In Manila, demonstrators lay down at the corner of España and Vicente Cruz streets as part of the protest.
Many of those joining the protest are from the left-leaning Kilusang Mayo Uno and Gabriela, not transport stakeholders, said Aileen Lizada, spokesperson of the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board.
"Karamihan sa kanila ay mga labor sector. Hindi po iyan mga tsuper, hindi po iyan mga operator... Ito po ay more on the left-leaning side na iba ho ang agenda," Lizada told DZMM.
(Many of those are from the labor sector. They're not drivers. They're not operators... These are more from the left-leaning side who have a different agenda.)
Lizada also alleged that an organizer of the strike recently likened the modernization program to government policies that heralded the declaration of martial law under President Ferdinand Marcos.
"Sinabi po ng isang transport leader and I quote, 'Ang nangyayari ay parang September 1972, bago mag-martial law'... Kung modernization program lang ang ino-oppose nila, bakit pati martial law sinasabi nila?" she said.
(One transport leader said, and I quote, What is happening is like September 1972, before martial law... If they are opposing just the modernization program, why raise martial law?)
"Really, they are trying to infuse in a very subtle way, which can cause confusion and result to destabilization."
PISTON president George San Mateo said labor groups were only "supporting" the drivers and operators leading the 2-day strike.
San Mateo said PISTON took to the streets out of fear that they would lose their livelihood as they would not be able afford the new expensive jeepneys.
He urged the government to postpone the modernization program until it finds a "nationalized, efficient and affordable" framework.
Finance officials have allocated a P2.2 billion subsidy for public utility vehicle modernization program, the LTFRB earlier said.
The government has also designated pick-up points for commuters that may be affected by PISTON's protest.