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Just hours before SONA, PISTON drivers were already arrested (again)

The arrest of the PISTON (Pinagkaisang Samahan ng mga Tsuper at Operators Nationwide) six was just one of the many jarring reminders of the actual state of our nation. While those affected were eventually released after posting bail, it seems it isn’t over yet for the jeepney drivers and advocates of PISTON.

According to the group’s tweet earlier today, some members were arrested while on their way to a SONA protest. The drivers in question were taken into custody in Quezon City Circle at around 8:30 this morning—and they haven’t even stepped foot on the rally grounds yet.

“Ang sabi ko nga, ‘Bakit naman hinuli? Eh, wala pa naman doon sa aktwal na protesta, papunta pa lang… nasa biyahe pa lang?” says PISTON national president Mody Floranda.

“Ang layunin ng paglabas ng mga driver sa kalsada ay upang ipaabot kay Pangulong Duterte ‘yung pagkondena dun sa planong modernization program. At isa sa panawagan ng mga driver ngayon ay 100% mapayagan silang muling makabalik sa hanapbuhay.”

The Philippine National Police (PNP) later stated that there were only four people arrested contrary to the group’s report. The arrested individuals were brought to Camp Karingal for their charges. According to National Capital Region Police Office chief Debold Sinas (yes, “mañanita” and “alleged harassment” Debold Sinas), the drivers weren’t arrested for protesting but because they were driving traditional jeepneys.

“Unang-una bawal ‘yung jeep. By all means, bawal ‘yung jeep. Kung sabihin nila, social distancing, mayroon naman pasahero na apat lang,” says Sinas in a press briefing. 

“Wala naman silang nilabas na guidelines na bawal ang jeep, ang bawal ay ‘yung protesters sa Commonwealth Avenue. Hindi pa sila saklaw sa bawal,” Floranda said, in response to Sinas.

It should also be noted that these guidelines mostly spoke about jeepneys in operation, i.e. those actually accepting paying passengers. In that case, limited routes in Metro Manila have been opened for the so-called “roadworthy.”

What’s more noticeable is that this arrest was made a few hours before the SONA. With scenes like these, it makes us think: For us to see the real deal and the “state of the nation,” maybe we ought to look past the podium and into the streets instead.

Read more:

We’re beyond 100 days in quarantine. How are the jeepney drivers?

6 jeepney drivers fought for their rights—now they’re in jail

7 Cebuano activists fight for right to protest, now they’re arrested

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