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Palace defends Piston leader’s arrest, but Poe questions timing

George San Mateo after being released by the QCPD. —GRIG C. MONTEGRANDE

Malacañang defended the arrest of transport leader George San Mateo on Tuesday, saying it was not an act of harassment by the government which was just upholding the rule of law.

Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque pointed out that San Mateo had been warned that as a holder of a franchise or a certificate of public convenience (CPC), it was a crime for him to participate in a transport strike. The same goes for other operators, he said.

“The warning was made. He defied [the law]. He now has to face the consequences,” Roque said of San Mateo, president of the Pinagkaisang Samahan ng mga Tsuper at Opereytor Nationwide (Piston).

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A complaint against San Mateo was filed in September by the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB).

He was charged with violating Section 20(k) of the Public Service Act, also known as Commonwealth Act No. 146, for leading a transport strike in February to protest the government’s jeepney modernization program.

1936 law

The law was enacted in 1936 during the Commonwealth period. It prohibits the withholding of public services from the people.

Piston was planning to hold another two-day strike on Dec. 4 and 5, but called it off on Sunday.

Sen. Grace Poe, who had appealed to Piston to cancel the strike, questioned timing and basis of San Mateo’s arrest. “Everyone has the right to peaceably assemble. It is unclear based on the cited section of the Public Service Act (PSA) what exactly San Mateo violated,” she said.

“If holding a strike is tantamount to a violation under any memorandum of the LTFRB, then the proper penalty should have been a fine or suspension or cancellation of their franchise, not threatening their leader with incarceration,” she added.

San Mateo was released by the Quezon City Police District after posting bail of P4,000, but not before a scuffle broke out between his supporters and an arresting team in front of the Quezon City Hall of Justice.

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He was taken to QCPD-Kamuning where his mugshots and fingerprints were taken.

San Mateo’s lawyer, Vicente Jaime Topacio, denounced the arrest, noting how it was carried out just as his client was about to appear in the Quezon City Metropolitan Trial Court Branch 43 to complete bail proceedings.

“The police should have instead escorted him to the court to allow him to post bail, which is his right,” Topacio said.

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TAGS: George San Mateo, Grace Poe, Harry Roque, LTFRB, Piston
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