Two of ‘Piston 6’ infected after days in detention
Two of the “Piston 6” jeepney drivers who were detained for days at a crowded police facility in Caloocan City have been found positive for the new coronavirus disease (COVID-19) more than a week after their release, a lawmaker confirmed on Thursday.
Caloocan Rep. Edgar Erice said his office conducted rapid and swab tests on the six jeepney drivers on June 11 after they expressed concern they might have contracted the virus inside the detention center near the new City Hall on 9th Avenue.
Based on the results released on June 17, two of them were positive for COVID-19.
“We are working to put them into isolation centers and [to subject] their immediate families [to] testing,” Erice told reporters in a text message as he urged the Caloocan police to disinfect the facility and conduct tests on the remaining inmates. He did not identify the two, citing the need for privacy as he added that both were asymptomatic.
No official confirmation
For Caloocan police chief Police Col. Dario Menor, no tests could be conducted for now as they had yet to receive any official confirmation about Piston 6’s test results.
According to Menor, there were over 120 people in their custody, saying that only those who had symptoms could be tested. “Considering also that the six jeepney drivers are now freed, we no longer have power over them. I cannot recall any test that we conducted while they were detained, and it is the city health office that leads the testing in Caloocan,” he said.
He also dismissed reports that there was a suspected COVID-19 patient in the facility who died before the Piston 6 were arrested.
VJ Topacio, the chief lawyer for the jeepney drivers, described the development as an injustice.
“It is unfair on the part of our poor countrymen—the detention prisoners who do not want to be infected, and they are really at high risk. I hope we can act on this quickly and address the reality that [the coronavirus] is still alive,” said Topacio who, along with other members of the legal team, were now also under quarantine.
The six jeepney drivers who are members of the transport group Piston were “invited” for questioning by the police on June 2 after they staged a protest on Edsa-Monumento in which they urged the government to lift the ban on jeepneys that had left them without a source of livelihood.
They were later detained and charged with violating quarantine protocols, including a ban on mass gatherings.
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