Gov't just enforcing law on arrest of transport leader, Roque says
Malacanang did not see any violation on the arrest of George San Mateo, leader of a militant transport group, which President Rodrigo Duterte branded as communist.
In a press briefing on Tuesday, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said San Mateo, who heads Pinagkaisahang Samahan ng mga Tsuper at Operator Nationwide (Piston) was warned that as holder of a certificate of public convenience, what he did of spearheading a transport strike was illegal.
"As I said, it is also pursuant to a warrant of arrest duly issued by a court and therefore, there can be no harassment here. We are just allowing the rule of law to prevail. The warning was made. He defied. He now has to face the consequences," he said.
A Quezon City court issued a warrant of arrest against San Mateo for allegedly violating the Public Service Law when he participated in the transport strike last February. He was arrested on Tuesday. The court fixed P4,000 bail for San Mateo's temporary release.
Roque said San Mateo's arrest was not related to Duterte's earlier threat to order the apprehension of the members of left-leaning organizations whom he claimed as "legal fronts."
"This has nothing to do with arresting legal fronts. This has something to do with violating the Public Service Law," he stressed.
Roque said San Mateo's arrest sends a message that if one violates the law, the person would be prosecuted by authorities.
While the Bill of Rights protects freedom of expression and right to assemble, Roque, also presidential adviser on human rights, claimed that transport strike affects the public.
"Why do you have a certificate of public convenience? To render a service necessary to the public. That’s why you’re given the legal authority to conduct this business," he said.
"But if you will be a tool to inconvenience the public, then that’s a violation of the trust repose in you by the state because that certificate of a public convenience is not a right. It’s a privilege reserved only for those who can meet the obligations of franchise holders," he said. Celerina Monte/DMS