TWO TAXI TALES
The taxi driver who was widely criticized in social media for violently flaring up at two passengers who asked for a P10 flag down discount in Cebu City faced his accuser yesterday.
Joel Ramos, 45, was more upset about being lambasted on Facebook than getting fined P1,000 for overcharging, when he appeared before the Land Transportation and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) 7 office.
“Gipakauwawan ko niya ug gihimong criminal sa iyang Facebook nga ako daw ang tawo nga angay pugotan ug ulo sa ISIS,” Ramos told LFTRB officials.
(I was humiliated and made to look like a criminal in his Facebook account where he said I deserve to be beheaded by ISIS).
Ramos, who showed up with his wife, sat across call center agent Dave Say Horca in the office inquiry, surrounded by news reporters and TV crews.
He spoke softly and avoided looking at Horca.
He denied threatening Horca and his wife. He talked of how embarrassed his family was by the publicity: “Akong pamilya ug akong mga igsoon ug my kaliwat, akong anak, nauwaw. (My family – my siblings, relatives, daughter – are all embarrassed.)
In contrast, the 26-year-old call center agent kept his gaze on the driver during the 20-minute inquiry.
When his turn came to narrate what happened, Horca forcefullly repeated how he and his wife were terrified during Monday evening’s encounter when they took the cab from home in Escario Street to the IT Park where his spouse, also a call center agent, was reporting for work.
He said the taxi driver got angry after the wife asked for correct change for their P100 bill to reflect the P10 roll back in the flag down rate that took effect nationwide that day.
Horca said the driver started ranting about the rollback, then threw two five peso coins at them and dared: “Unsa man- manukol mo? Isog mo?,” a taunt Horca imitated yesterday with an arrogant tone. He said the driver also reached for a knife.
Fearing trouble, Horca said he took his wife’s hand and pulled her out of the cab, slamming the door but the driver got out and followed them, yelling curses.
It was Horca’s photo of the taxi cab with its identifying body number that was posted in his Facebook account, where he warned others of his nightmarish experience.
Horca said he took the photo with a zoom lens in the i3 building where he and his wife were ushered in by a security guard who had seen the commotion on the street.
The driver, however, vehemently denied bringing any weapon or threatening the couple.
Ramos said he has been working in the taxi company for three years with no record of bad conduct.
“Serbisyo publiko man jud ni akoa. Wa jud ko namakak,” he said. (I’m just doing public service. I’m not lying.)
With the two conflicting claims of what happened, LTFRB officials said both sides should bring witnesses when the first formal hearing is scheduled.
“Both denied the allegations. We need more witnesses unless there is an admission from the parties,’” said lawyer Evelyn Caremlita Misal, who presided over the session.
She said they will set a date when their hearing officer, lawyer Edwin Antipuesto, is available.
She asked the taxi driver if he was willing to tale a drug test; Ramos said yes.
The question arose based on Horca’s account that the taxi driver had red, dilated eyes during the confrontation, a sign the driver could have been high on drugs.
The driver, a resident of Consolacion town, is temporarily out of work. His operator in SD Taxi asked him to stop driving while the dispute is being resolved.
When LTFRB called looking for the driver, the operator said Ramos had just finished a straight 24-hour shift of driving that Monday and was resting.
Misal said yesterday’s meeting was an inquiry do initially listen to the driver’s response to Horca’s formal complaint.
The driver is facing two cases, one for overcharging and another for arrogant/discourteous behavior.
Under the Joint Administrative Order (JAO) 2014-01, each offense draws a P1,000 fine for the driver and P5,000 for the operator if the party is guilty.
The call center agent, meanwhile, said he would would pursue criminal and administrative charges against the driver.
“I am not interested to settle this,” Horca told reporters later.
He didn’t bring his wife yesterday, saying Monday’s experience was still traumatic for both of them.
During the inquiry, the taxi driver acknowledged that an argument took place over the P10 flag down reduction.
Ramos said he explained to the couple that the discount was already included.
“Ang ako giingon kay P10 nga sukli automatic naman na boss, mao na akong gipasabot sa iyaha. Nigawas siya, iya gi-kodakan akong auto human nako paghatag sa sukli (I explained that the P10 is automatically included in the change. Then he disembarked and took a photo of my cab after I have them the change ),” he said.
He said Horca confronted him, asking for his driver’s ID and proof of a re-calibrated taxi meter and sticker announcing the flag down cut.
Ramos admitted raising his voice and telling the couple, “If naa moy reklamo adto lang mo sa LTFRB, didto lang ta mag-atubang.” (If you have any complaint, go to the LTFRB and we will face each other there.)
The driver said he regretted shouting at them, so lingered awhile, driving slowly from the i3 building and returning a few hours later to ask the guard for Harco’s whereabouts so he could äpologize.
But Ramos insisted he did not point a knife at the couple.
“Wa man gani koy armas or kutsily dala bisan tukog sa barbecue o ballpen sa akong auto,”” he said. (I don’t carry a gun or a knife, not even a barbecue stick or ballpen in my taxi.)
He sad the IT Park has CCTV security cameras if they need proof of what happened.
The encounter took place about 9 p.m. on Monday, March 9, the first day of nationwide implementation of LTFRB’s order to reduce the taxi flag down by P10 to the new rate of P30.
“A few steps from the Jollibee, a guard is there to protect employees of Convergys so we walked there while siya naghinayhinay siya og drive, padung na siyagit-syagit,”said Horca.
He said the cab driver shouted curses after them: “ Hambugero ka, hambugera ka, hilas… atubanga ko ninyo sa LTO ug di mo tarong mamayad.”
With all the shouting, Horca said he thought of taking a photo of the cab and zoomed in to try to also take a photo of the driver’s face.
“He freaked out. He kept shouting then he came back less than 30 minutes later according to the guard supposedly to say he was sorry.”
Horca said the driver’s fury and shouting in the presence of other people was abusive behavior.
The call center agent said he and his wife were not interested in the P10 discount but were disturbed by the driver’s conduct.
“There is something wrong with this guy,” he said.
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