Anakbayan: Arrest of Piston 6 aims to silence critics, not to reprimand alleged violators  | Inquirer News
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Anakbayan: Arrest of Piston 6 aims to silence critics, not to reprimand alleged violators 

/ 12:33 AM June 20, 2020
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File photo shows some of the members of the so-called Piston 6 inside the police headquarters. INQUIRER file photo

MANILA, Philippines – A group claimed that the arrest of supposed lockdown violators were never intended to cure the lack of physical distancing amid the pandemic, as critics believe that two Piston 6 members contracted the coronavirus while in detention.

Activist group Anakbayan said in a statement on Friday that the arrest of the six jeepney drivers, who protested the continuous ban on jeepneys, was in fact an attempt to silence critics of President Rodrigo Duterte’s administration.

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“Duterte and the police treated the lives of Piston 6 as disposable by ironically passing COVID-19 infection as verdict for allegedly violating social distancing protocols,” Anakbayan spokesperson Alex Danday said in a statement.

“This proves that the arrests over the military lockdown were never about preventing the spread of disease but to stifle dissent and to send a chilling effect to critics,” she added.

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According to Danday, the arrest of the Piston 6 and many other reported lockdown violators who just wanted to earn a living for their hungry families only jeopardized their health, and their jobs and means of livelihood.

“The livelihood of jeepney drivers relies on their bodies’ physical condition. By putting the jeepney drivers’ health at grave risk, Duterte and the police did not only put the lives of Piston 6 in danger but also those who rely on them to survive,” she explained.

As the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) was placed over Luzon and other areas, several violators were arrested for loitering and disregarding distancing protocols.  However, some of the apprehended persons claim that they were only trying to find ways to earn money as work suspensions left them without income through the lockdown.

Then, several groups conducting relief operations for jobless workers last Labor Day were also arrested for supposedly participating in a “mass gathering,” even if the volunteers claimed that they were practicing distancing.

These arrests have drawn comparisons to the government’s apparent disregard of alleged quarantine violations committed during a surprise mañanita for National Capital Region Police Office director Maj. Gen. Debold Sinas.

Earlier, think-tank group Ibon Foundation said that jeepney drivers have already lost P78,000 worth of possible income ever since the ECQ over Luzon and Metro Manila started.

However, government has repeatedly said that they are not keen on bringing back jeepneys as the seating positions of passengers are prone to coronavirus transmissions.  But for Anakbayan, authorities should refrain from making these arrests, and instead focus on the problems faced by the drivers.

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“Jeepney drivers all over the country are going beyond their capacities to not die of hunger, they have even gone as far as begging and scavenging,” Danday said.

“Yet, instead of attending to their needs by extending aid and livelihood assistance, Duterte and the police are knocking off the poverty-stricken majority by fascist means, if not by hunger or by disease,” she added.

JPV

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