By Joseph Almer Pedrajas
Police on Tuesday (June 2) arrested six jeepney drivers in Caloocan City for allegedly gathering en masse and violating social distancing protocols after staging a protest to call for the resumption of jeepney operations in the National Capital Region (NCR).
The Northern Police District identified them as Severino Ramos, 59; Wilson Ramilia, 43; Ramon Paloma, 48; Ruben Baylon, 59; Arsenio Ymas Jr, 56; and Elmer Cordero, 72, who are members of transport group PISTON.
A police report said that the six individuals were collared after “publicly gather[ing] and deliberately disregard[ing] the” social distancing protocols “in [view] of the existing pandemic” along EDSA in Barangay 83 around 9:30 a.m.
“During police response, these suspects refused to disperse themselves and only upon the use of just and reasonable force were they subdued and brought to police headquarters,” police added.
PISTON, on its Facebook page, has called for the release of the arrested drivers as it was “hunger” that supposedly “prompted them to stage a protest.”
“Nananawagan ang Piston na suportahan ang panawagan na palayain ang mga hinuling drayber na walang kaso o multa. Gutom ang nagtulak para sa pagkilos ng drayber. Hindi na makaturungan na sa kabila nang kagutuman ay pagmumultahin at paparusahan pa sila (We ask for your support to call for the release of the drivers, without any charges and fine. Hunger prompted them to stage a protest. It’s unjust that amid the hunger, they are still being punished),” the group said.
The incident was the second time that members of the group staged a protest. On Monday (June 1), several members also held a protest along Commonwealth Ave. to call for the resumption of jeepney operations as the NCR shifts to general community quarantine, and mass testing for all jeepney drivers.
“Ito’y protesta ng mga driver at operator upang makabalik sila sa kani-kanilang paghahanap-buhay. Ang mga driver at mga operator ay bahagi din ng pagpatakbo ng ekonomiya ng ating bansa, kung kaya iginigiit namin na payagan maka-byahe ang higit 2,000 driver na namasukan dito (This is a protest of drivers and operators for them to resume their livelihoods. Drivers and operators are part of the economy, so we insist that the more than 2,000 drivers be allowed to operate again),” Bong Baylon, the group’s national deputy secretary general, said in a video interview posted on PISTON’s Facebook page.