Arrest warrant vs. transport leader based on rule of law

MANILA -- The warrant of arrest issued against Pinagkaisang Samahan ng mga Tsuper at Operator Nationwide (PISTON) national president George San Mateo is based on the rule of law and not a form of harassment or intimidation as claimed by a certain activist group, MalacaAang said Tuesday.

A Quezon City court has ordered the arrest of San Mateo for leading a transport strike on Feb. 27, 2017.

In a Palace briefing, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque pointed out that the warrant of arrest against the transport leader is for violation of Section 20 (k) of Commonwealth Act No. 146 or The Public Service Act.

The said provision states that it shall be unlawful for any public service to adopt, maintain, or apply practices or measures, rules or regulations to which the public shall be subject in its relations with the public service.

Roque, who is also a lawyer, added that Section 19 of the CA No. 146 also states that it shall be unlawful for any public service to provide or maintain any service that is unsafe, improper, or inadequate or withhold or refuse any service which can reasonably be demanded and furnished, as found and determined by the Commission in a final order.

I think he was warned that as a holder of a franchise, a certificate of public convenience (CPC), it is criminal and it is illegal for them to participate in any tigil pasada, he said.

On February 25, the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) issued a press release reiterating the prohibition on the conduct of a transport strike led by operators of public utility vehicles prior to a planned nationwide tigil pasada by PISTON and Stop and Go Transport Coalition.

Despite the warning, the transport strike was carried out on February 27 as a means to oppose the government's public utility vehicle (PUV) modernization program.

The warning was made. He defied. He now has to face the consequences, Roque said.

He stressed to the transportation sector that a CPC is not a right but a privilege that is reserved only for those who can meet the obligations of franchise holders.

But if you will be a tool to inconvenience the public, then that's a violation of the trust repose in you by the state, he said.

He likewise emphasized that the arrest warrant against the transport leader has nothing to do with arresting legal fronts as claimed by activist group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan).

In an earlier statement, Bayan denounced San Mateo's impending arrest as pure harassment and intimidation.

The group said that the warrant comes in the wake of President Rodrigo Duterte's threats of a crackdown of legal activists, and his slandering of mass organizations as mere legal fronts of the CPP (Communist Party of the Philippines).

As I said, it is pursuant to a warrant of arrest duly issued by a court and therefore, there can be now harassment here. We are just allowing the rule of law to prevail, Roque said.

This has nothing to do with arresting legal fronts. This has something to do with violating the public service law. So now that the law is being implemented, they should only blame themselves for it, he added.

In the meantime, MalacaAang urged the transport sector not to resort to tigil pasada, which is illegal, to air their grievances but instead engage in a dialogue with the proper authorities.

Idaan po natin sa tamang proseso 'yung mga hinihingi nila sa gobyerno dahil sila naman po ay binigyan ng pribilehiyo na magkaroon ng ganitong negosyo para magbigay ng serbisyo sa taong bayan. Pero 'yung protesta po, hindi po 'yan serbisyo sa taong bayan. 'Yan po ay pabigat sa ating mga mananakay at pinagbabawal po 'yan ng batas, (The government will have their demands undergo proper procedure because they were given the privilege to be in the transport business for them to serve the people. But protests, these are not serving the people. This is a burden to our commuters and it is illegal under the law.) Roque said.

Obligasyon po ng gobyerno na talagang ipatupad ang ating mga batas, andiyan po ang mga batas, kailangang ipatupad. Kaya nga kapag kayo'y lumabag sa batas, kayo po'y iimbestigahan, lilitisin at paparusahan, (The government is obliged to implement the law. The law needs to be enforced. If you violate the law, you will be investigated, tried and punished), he said.

Source: Philippine News Agency