MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – President Rodrigo Duterte warned jeepney operators and drivers he would drag away their jeepneys if they fail to comply with the government's public utility vehicle (PUV) modernization program by the end of the year.
"January 1, if you don't modernize, get out," said Duterte on Tuesday, October 17, in Naga City.
"I will give you until the end of the month or until the end of the year. Sumunod kayo kasi, January 1, 'pag may makita akong jeep diyan na hindi nakarehistro, guguyurin ko 'yan sa harap ninyo (You follow because by January 1, if I still see an unregistered jeep, I will have it dragged away in front of you)," he threatened.
He scoffed at criticism from the Pinagkaisang Samahan ng mga Tsuper at Operator Nationwide (Piston) and leftist groups that the PUV modernization program is anti-poor.
"Mahirap kayo? Putang ina, magtiis kayo sa hirap at gutom, wala akong pakialam (You're poor? Son of a bitch, suffer hardship and hunger, I don't care). It's the majority of the Filipino people. Huwag ninyo ipasubo ang tao (Don't endanger the public)," said Duterte.
The Department of Transportation (DOTr) previously addressed the same criticism by saying the government is offering a "generous" loan program to help jeepney drivers and operators purchase new vehicles. (READ: Tugade calls jeepney drivers on strike 'selfish, small-minded')
Earlier that day, in Marawi City, Duterte blasted Piston for "poisoning" the public by opposing the PUV modernization program which is designed to lessen air pollution caused by old vehicles.
"You Piston, you know that you are poisioning the people. 2030, one-third of Filipinos, mostly poor, die of lung cancer because you don't want to fix your engines," said Duterte in a mix of English and Filipino.
He also pointed out that a lot of accidents involving PUVs typically stem from faulty brakes and are thus the consequence of the continued use of vehicles that may no longer be road-worthy.
Duterte is treating the transport strike as a "rebellion," claiming Piston, Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU), and other groups participating in the strike are mere "legal fronts" of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP).
"It's one big conspiracy but they are at the same time, all of them, are committing right now, rebellion," said the President.
Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at email@example.com.