‘Miriam-inspired’ measure takes center stage in House panel

Published November 12, 2020, 4:53 PM

by Ellson Quismorio

The House Committee on Transportation has given deference to a pro-commuter bill that carries the spirit of the beloved late senator, Miriam Defensor-Santiago.

Committee chairman, Samar 1st district Rep. Edgar Mary Sarmiento vowed during a virtual hearing Wednesday to designate House Bill (HB) No.2401 as the lead measure for filed bills pertaining to the institutionalization of taxi passengers’ rights.

“There will be an assurance from the chair…we will consider your bill as the final version of the different House bills in consolidation and for us to act on it appropriately,” Sarmiento told the bill’s author in Nueva Ecija 1st district Rep. Estrellita Suansing.

“I submit to the wisdom of the chairman,” replied the lady solon. Her bill is titled, “An Act establishing the rights of passengers of taxis, tourist car transport services, and other similar vehicles-for-hire.”

In her sponsorship speech before the panel, Suansing said, “This is a refiled bill. This was approved on third and final reading in the 17th Congress and was forwarded to the Senate. But because of lack of time, it was not taken up.”

“This is an improved version of a similar bill of the late senator, Miriam Defensor Santiago who happens to be the first cousin of my husband, (Sultan Kudarat 2nd district) Cong. Toto Suansing,” she added.

It was back in October 2013 when then-senator Santiago filed Senate Bill (SB) 1206, which pushed for the establishment of taxi passengers’ bill of rights to penalize abusive taxi drivers and operators. She filed the bill amid the holiday season, when “horror stories” from commuters regarding their cab experiences are most common.

Santiago–known for her feisty nature and witty “pick-up lines”–died three years later at the age of 71 after a battle with lung cancer.

Prior to Wednesday, the Transportation panel had already set up a technical working group (TWG) to consolidate or harmonize other filed measures that had the same subject as the Suansing bill.

“Since this went through third reading already,” Sarmiento said of HB No.2401, “I believe it’s proper for us…we might as well just consolidate the bills so that we can right away pass this and go on plenary and transmit this to the Senate as soon as possible.”

The Samar solon’s promised designation of HB No.2401 as the “final version” of the related measures implies that he believes it is the superior bill.

“Taxis, TCTs and vehicles-for-hire may have set standards for their drivers but it varies with each service. Not all drivers follow these standards and many passengers do not know what their rights are,” Suansing told the panel.

She went on to enumerate the salient points of her bill. “Section 4 states the uniform standard of services for drivers and vehicles while Section 5 summarizes the rights of passengers. A section was provided to guide passengers on what and where to go in case of complaints. This also includes penalties for drivers and operators who will violate the provisions of the law.”

“With this measure, it is hoped that the rights of passengers be protected while also improving the public service standards in the transport sector,” she further said.