'Advance mag-isip': Cops arrest PISTON members headed to protest at UP Diliman

Gaea Katreena Cabico - Philstar.com
'Advance mag-isip': Cops arrest PISTON members headed to protest at UP Diliman
Members of transport group PISTON gather at the vicinity of Philippine Coconut Authority (PHILCOA) in Quezon City on July 27, 2020.

MANILA, Philippines — Police arrested members of transport group PISTON who were on their way to a mobilization at University of the Philippines Diliman hours before President Rodrigo Duterte’s State of the Nation Address Monday.

PISTON — Pinagkaisang Samahan ng mga Tsuper at Operators Nationwide — is among the activist groups that the government has tagged as a front organization for communists despite the 1987 Constitution recognizing citizens' rights to form and join organizations.

FROM 2017: Duterte warns ‘communist front’ Piston of arrest

Police Maj. Gen. Debold Sinas, Metro Manila police chief, said four persons on board a jeepney with a red PISTON flag were apprehended near Quezon Memorial Circle Monday morning for allegedly violating the rule prohibiting traditional jeepneys on Metro Manila roads.

They were brought to Camp Karingal, the headquarters of Quezon City Police District, where charges are being prepared against them.

“As to what happened to that, bahala na ‘yung investigator namin sa Karingal,” Sinas said.

'We weren't even at the protest'

PISTON president Mody Floranda said five people were arrested, including the driver of the jeepney. He said PISTON members were “illegally arrested.”

“Bakit hinuli eh wala pa dun sa actual na protesta? Papunta pa lang. Hindi nag-mamartsa pa, nasa biyahe pa lang,” Floranda told Philstar.com.

(Why were they arrested when they weren't even at the actual protest? They were headed there. They weren't even marching.)

The city government of Quezon City did not allow public protests on the day of Duterte’s SONA, in line with the government’s restrictions on mass gatherings.

Protests and rallies, however, are allowed inside UP Diliman. Sectoral groups are converging in the campus to hold a protest action dubbed “SONAgKAISA.”

The PISTON president added drivers were only exercising their right to join protests and air their grievances.

“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,” Floranda said.

(Our aim in taking to the street was to express our opposition to the planned jeepney modernization program. And our call that 100% of jeepney drivers be allowed to go back on the road to earn a living)

Limited routes in Metro Manila have been opened. Only those traditional jeepneys deemed “roadworthy” were be allowed to resume operations.

Cops in civilian clothes

Sinas said cops in civilian clothes will be deployed along Commonwealth Avenue, where holding of protest actions is prohibited.

“Marami kaming sasakyan na umiikot dyan, mga plainclothes na umiikot. Pag may makita, pagsabihan, huhuliin kaagad. Wala nang usap usap sa kalsada,” the Metro Manila police chief said.

“Pag may grupo, sisitahin bat kayo nag grupo-grupo. Pag may ilalabas na placard, automatic huli na,” he added. — with report from James Relativo

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