Court orders arrest of Piston’s San Mateo over jeepney strike

Rambo Talabong

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Court orders arrest of Piston’s San Mateo over jeepney strike

Rob Reyes

(UPDATED) Piston president George San Mateo was charged with a violation of Commonwealth Act No 146 or the Public Service Law. The court set bail at P4,000.

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – A Quezon City court has ordered the arrest of public transport leader George San Mateo for organizing a jeepney strike in February, the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) announced on Tuesday, December 5.

“The court finds the existence of a probable cause for the issuance of a warrant of arrest against the above named-accused (San Mateo),” reads the court order, which LTFRB board member Aileen Lizada shared to reporters on Tuesday.

Presiding Judge Don Ace Alagar of Quezon City Metropolitan Court Branch 43 set  bail at P4,000.

San Mateo, president of the Pinagkaisang Samahan ng mga Tsuper at Operator Nationwide (Piston), was charged with a violation of Commonwealth Act No. 146 or the Public Service Law. 

The arrest warrant stemmed from an LTFRB complaint against San Mateo for leading a transportation strike in February. The transport groups held another strike in October.

During both strikes, Piston asked the government to pull the brakes on the planned jeepney modernization program, and for a dialogue with President Rodrigo Duterte. Both requests were thumbed down.

Lizada earlier reiterated that jeepney drivers are not allowed to hold strikes, or they will lose their permits to operate. (READ: LTFRB strikes back: To revoke franchises of protesting drivers)

The group had planned to go on strike on Monday and Tuesday, December 4 and 5, but scrapped the plan in response to the appeal of Senator Grace Poe, chair the Senate committee on public services.

Poe had asked the transport groups to call of the strike as she would call for a meeting of her committee on Thursday, December 7, to discuss the transport groups’ concerns, along with government agencies and other stakeholders.

Poe, for her part, questioned the timing of the arrest order

“Although we respect the independence of the courts, the timing of the release of the arrest warrant is suspect and casts doubt on the intent of the complainant in filing such charges. The PUV modernization program should be borne from a democratic process and not from underhanded tactics,” the senator said in a statement on Tuesday.

“Everyone has the right to peaceably assemble. It is unclear based on the cited section of the Public Service Act what exactly San Mateo violated. 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.

Poe also said the “confusion” over San Mateo’s supposed violation “is a manifestation that the PSA has to be revisited and studied carefully to result in a more balanced interplay between public service, on the one hand, and the right to peaceably assemble, on the other hand.” –

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Rambo Talabong

Rambo Talabong covers the House of Representatives and local governments for Rappler. Prior to this, he covered security and crime. He was named Jaime V. Ongpin Fellow in 2019 for his reporting on President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs. In 2021, he was selected as a journalism fellow by the Fellowships at Auschwitz for the Study of Professional Ethics.