George San Mateo, the leader of the Pinagkaisang Samahan ng mga Tsuper at Operator Nationwide (Piston), was arrested on Tuesday for leading a transport strike early this year.
Police officers pounced on San Mateo in front of the Quezzon City Hall of Justice, where he was supposed to post a P4,000 bail for violating the Public Service Act.
“Ang gusto talaga nila dito, ibuyangyang ako sa harap ng taong bayan para matakot ang mga operator na lumaban. Nakita nating kasuklam-suklam ang panggigipit na ginawa nito ni Duterte (They wanted to show me being arrested to scare off the other operators. This harassment being done by (President Rodrigo) Duterte is sickening),” he told reporters in an ambush interview.
The Piston leader was taken to the Kamuning Police Station 10 at 1:30 p.m.
“Dapat hindi na tayo dinala dito…panggigipit na lang ito. Nakakagalit dahil matagal na tayong lumalaban sa isyu ng mga drayber at ngayon lang nangyari ito (They should not have brought me here, this is harassment. It is repulsive because we have been fighting for the concerns of drivers and this is the first time that something like this happened),” he added.
Anakpawis Rep. Ariel Casilao questioned San Mateo’s arrest.
“Yung pagpapahayag mo ba ng grievances against government, criminally liable ka na dun (Are you criminally liable when you voice out grievance against the government?” Casilao asked.
“He voluntarily appeared, he already complied with the requirements to post bail. Eh hinarang pa ng pulis para ipakita ang pag-serve ng warrant (The police blocked him so that they can serve the arrest warrant),” he added.
Piston’s secretary general Steve Rajano also condemned San Mateo’s arrest.
Rajano said the Piston head was accompanied by two lawmakers and two lawyers to post bail but he was blocked by policemen and forcibly taken to the police station.
Judge Don Ace Mariano Alagar of the Quezon City Metropolitan Trial Court Branch 43 issued the arrest warrant for San Mateo for violation of Section 20 (k) of the Public Service Act.
The arrest order was in connection with the case filed by the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board against San Mateo for leading the transport strike against the jeepney modernization program on February 27 this year.
San Mateo was released at 5 p.m. after posting bail.
Malacañang said San Mateo’s arrest was part of the implementation of the rule of law, not harassment.
“I think he was warned that as a holder of a franchise, certificate of public convenience, it is criminal and it is illegal for them to participate in any tigil pasada (transport strike),” Palace spokesman Harry Roque said. “It is also pursuant to the warrant of arrest duly issued by the court and therefore, there can be no harassment here.
We are just allowing the rule of law to prevail. The warning was made. He defied. Now, he has to face the consequences.”
In October, Duterte accused Piston and other activist groups of being communist fronts and of working with the New People’s Army.
“It is one big conspiracy. Right now, all of them are committing rebellion,” Duterte said.
He added transport groups should comply with the government’s plan to modernize jeepneys.
with GLEE JALEA