PISTON renews its demand to urgently release its national vice president and its Bicol regional chapter CONDOR-PISTON spokesperson Ramon Rescovilla who was arrested in his hometown in Albay in September 2020 with fabricated charges using planted evidence.
“Ilang beses nang napatunayan na mahilig sa mga gawa-gawang kaso at tanim-ebidensya ang PNP para lang patahimikin ang mga kritiko ng gobyerno. Andami nang warrant at kaso laban sa mga aktibistang gaya ni Ramon ang nabasura ng korte. Kaya itong pagpapatagal pa sa kaso ni Ramon, ay malinaw na panggigipit hindi lang sa PISTON, kundi sa buong mamamayang naghahangad at nananawagan ng makabuluhang pagbabago,” said PISTON national president Mody Floranda.
Prior to his arrest, Rescovilla was a driver-leader in Bicol who was at the forefront of the No To Jeepney Phaseout campaign in the region, successfully holding various transport strikes in 2017, 2018, and 2019. Because of his active participation in organizing and mobilizing jeepney drivers and small operators in Bicol against unjust government policies, he was constantly red-tagged and even tortured by state forces at the time of his abduction, says PISTON.
“Malinaw ang panawagan namin — makatarungang modernisasyon ng PUV, hindi phaseout, hindi sapilitang franchise consolidation na labag sa karapatan at kabuhayan ng mga tsuper at maliliit na operator,” said Floranda. “Pero imbis na pakinggan kami ng gobyerno, red-tagging, iligal na pag-aresto, at mga gawa-gawang kaso ang ibinabato sa aming mga manggagawa sa pampublikong transportasyon.”
Human rights violations under the “fake” PUV Modernization Program
PISTON says the PUVMP, which is being implemented under the DOTr Department Order 2017-011 or the Omnibus Franchising Guidelines, is in itself a violation of Filipino transport workers’ right to have an adequate livelihood.
According to the group, since almost all small operators cannot afford the P2.5 to 3 million price tag of an imported modern jeepney unit, they simply cannot afford to purchase the 15 units required by the PUVMP. Because of this, the government has offered loans from banks that could place these small operators in huge debt, consequently putting them out of livelihood and their drivers out of work.
The group also slams the coercive franchise consolidation scheme of the PUVMP. According to Floranda, “Labag sa karapatang pantao ang pamimilit ng LTFRB sa mga operator na isuko ang kanilang mga prangkisa at mag-consolidate para mag-modernize ng mga unit. Ang ating mga individual na prangkisa ay pinagkaloob ng batas bilang karapatan sa kabuhayan. Hindi kami papayag na linlangin ng gobyerno ang mga operator at pilitin silang pumasok sa franchise consolidation. Patuloy itong tinututulan ng mga tsuper at operator kasi alam naming magre-resulta ito sa lalong panggigigpit ng gobyerno sa amin, pagkakabaon sa utang, at kawalan ng kabuhayan.”
Human rights violations on transport workers run rampant across nations and supply chains
PISTON also joins the call of the international community in demanding governments across the world to protect the rights of transport workers in all supply chains. According to the group, corporations and governments who trample on their workers’ rights to decent labor conditions and livable wages should be held accountable. Urgent action to solve these problems must be done immediately.
The group condemns the South Korean government’s failure to heed the demands of South Korean truckers who held a historical three-week strike calling for minimum wage protections. Some 25,000 truckers voted to end their strike yesterday following South Korean president Yoon Suk-yeol’s issuance of hundreds of ‘’return to work” orders to striking drivers, effectively criminalizing strike actions and threatening drivers with prison terms of up to three years, heavy fines, and the loss of their licenses.
In a statement, PISTON said, “We vehemently condemn the South Korean government’s flagrant denial of workers’ basic right to strike and militantly air their grievances on the government’s failure to pass minimum wage protection laws. This is not just an attack on the striking truck drivers, but also an attack on the democratic rights of every worker in South Korea.”
Furthermore, in Nigeria last month, the country’s Federal High Court ordered the detention of 26 seafarers on charges of oil theft even after confirmation from British Petroleum that their ship’s load was authorized. While in Eswatini, on November 10, the country’s armed forces opened fire on a group of transport workers protesting the arrest and detention of five colleagues, leaving several injured.
For PISTON, transport workers mobilizing and protesting against various human rights violations worldwide is a manifestation that people across the globe, especially workers, are dissatisfied with the current economic and political conditions that has been resulting to their further marginalization and degradation of their working and living conditions. However, instead of listening to their demands, governments continue to terrorize and attack workers.
“Kaming mga manggagawa sa transportasyon ang tinatawag na isa sa mga backbone of the economy. Palagi naming sinasabi na kakampi kami ng gobyerno sa pagpapaunlad ng ekonomiya at pagseserbisyo sa mamamayan. Pero sa oras na ang mga karapatan namin ang sasagasaan at dadahasin ng mismong estado, asahan nating patuloy ding aalma at magpo-protesta ang mga manggagawa saan mang panig ng mundo,” said Floranda.