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Poe raises doubt over arrest order vs Piston leader

Senator Grace Poe questioned on Tuesday the issuance of an arrest order against a transport leader, saying the timing was “suspect” as it also cast doubt on the intent of the complainant in filing the case.

“Although we respect the independence of the courts, the timing of the release of the arrest warrant is suspect and casts doubt on the intent of the complainant in filing such charges,” Poe said in a statement she issued after a Quezon City court ordered the arrest of Pinagkaisang Samahan ng mga Tsuper at Opereytor Nationwide (Piston) president George San Mateo.

The arrest order was in connection with the case filed by the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) against San Mateo for leading the transport strike against the jeepney modernization program last February 27.

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READ: Piston leader ordered arrested over transport strike

“The PUV modernization program should be borne from a democratic process and not from underhanded tactics. After all, it is through the labor and industry of these jeepney drivers and operators that our commuters are able to travel from one point to another despite the failure of the government to provide better mass transportation options,” the senator said.

Besides, Poe questioned why San Mateo would be threatened with incarceration when it was unclear what exact violation he had committed under the Public Service Act (PSA).

“Everyone has the right to peaceably assemble. It is unclear based on the cited section of the Public Service Act what exactly San Mateo violated,” she said.

“If holding a strike is tantamount to a violation under any memorandum of the LTFRB, then the proper penalty should have been a fine or suspension or cancellation of their franchise, not threatening their leader with incarceration.”

“All told, this confusion is a manifestation that the PSA has to be revisited and studied carefully to result in a more balanced interplay between public service, on the one hand, and the right to peaceably assemble, on the other hand,” the senator  added.

As chair of the Senate committee on public services, Poe is set to conduct a hearing on Monday (December 11) on the government’s jeepney modernization scheme, which is strongly being opposed by Piston and other transport groups.

“With their entire livelihood at stake, the least we can do is hear them out. Moving forward, let us give them and other stakeholders a chance to explain so that we can resolve their issues together,” she added.            /kga

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