Free the PISTON 6, allow jeepney drivers to resume their livelihood

While public discussion on Anti-Terrorism Bill is raging, six (6) jeepney drivers and members of the Pinagkaisang Samahan ng Tsuper at Operator Nationwide (PISTON) were arrested and detained on June 2 at Caloocan City Jail when 30 of them, wearing face masks and observing social distancing staged a “Busina Para Sa Balik Pasada“ protest in Monumento, Caloocan City.

The jeepney drivers were calling on the government to allow them to travel and transport especially the workers returning to work who have been deprived of their income and livelihood as a result of almost three months of lockdown.

Detained are Severino Ramos, Elmer Cordero, Arsenio Ymas Jr., Wilson Ramilla, Ramon Paloma and PISTON Deputy Secretary General Ruben Baylon.

Cordero, who is 72 years old and looks very frail, was not spared from arrest and detention.

According to his wife, Elvira Cordero who was interviewed by CTUHR, ‘Tatay’ Elmer, was only given a chance to ply route, once a week, so life was already difficult, even before the lockdown.

They have not received any assistance.

The six were charged with violating Caloocan Local Ordinance #0863 or Violation of Social Distancing.

The offense is punishable only by a reprimand and they should have been released yesterday morning.

But the drivers were called by Northern Police District station for a dialogue with the Chief only to be slapped with charges of “disobedience” later.

Regardless of appeals of various groups and individuals, including a city Councilor, the police remained firm on their continuous detention.

As of this writing (June 4) the fiscal has not issued a resolution on the case and they remained in detention.

It is appalling that every night, they are transferred to a cramped cell together with other offenders with no physical distancing at all.

Not only their detention is absurd and inhumane, but they are exposed to the possibility of contracting COVID 19, as an employee of the city hall was tested positive of the disease.

The Center for Trade Union and Human Rights (CTUHR) strongly condemns the arrest and detention of PISTON 6 and calls for their immediate release.

“To protest because the drivers are hungry and wanting to work, instead of depending on government assistance that never came, is not only legitimate. It is humane and logical. To arrest and detain them, is inhumane, height of insensitivity and a form of institutional violence”, said CTUHR in a statement.

The Center also slammed the slow processing of their release which increases their risk of being exposed to COVID-19.