Six jeepney drivers in Caloocan City were arrested earlier this week for protesting against the government, which continues to prohibit them from working.
Charged for failing to practice social distancing, mass gathering, and resistance to persons in authority were drivers Severino Ramos, Arsenio Ymas, Elmer Cordero, Wilson Ramilla, Ramon Paloma, and Ruben Balyon, the deputy secretary-general of transport group Piston. Aside from the charges, they are required to pay a fine of PHP3,000 ($60) each.
In an exclusive interview with ABS-CBN’s Teleradyo today, Caloocan police chief Col. Dario Menor insisted that the group refused to heed the authorities’ call to stop their protests, which led to their arrests.
“We learned that they were in EDSA, and they gathered together, around 20 of them. We went there purposely to maintain peace and order. It was EDSA and they were getting in the way of traffic. We had to do something because it was necessary to maintain the orderliness of the place. We told them to stop,” the police chief said in Filipino and English.
“We invited them to the station to ask what their purpose was in going there and disturbing [the peace]. We asked them nicely, as you can see in their video, but they were still insisting [to protest],” Menor added.
“It depends on the court when they will be set free. Once they posted their bail that’s when they will be freed. It’s painful for us, but that’s their destiny,” he said.
However, Piston said in a statement that the charges filed against the six were trumped up because the protesters practiced social distancing during their protest. The six suspects were allegedly brought to the city hall to be charged after they were invited for questioning at the police station. If that was done forcefully, their arrest is a case of illegal detention, said Piston.
Countless jeepney drivers have been left unemployed and hungry since the start of the quarantines. While the lockdown has been eased, jeepneys are still banned in Metro Manila because the government insists it’s hard to implement social distancing rules within such vehicles. Desperate for cash to support their families, drivers are often seen on the city’s roads begging for alms.