By MARYA SALAMAT
MANILA — Members of national public transport group PISTON joined yesterday’s commemoration of the 65th anniversary of Universal Declaration of Human Rights by joining the protest action in Mendiola and calling for justice for four of their leaders who were killed during Aquino’s first three years in Malacañang.
The drivers group expressed their disappointment with the Aquino government’s “bloody human rights record.” George San Mateo, national president of Piston, said President Benigno Aquino III has merely continued and added to the bloody record of former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. Similar to the time under Arroyo, San Mateo noted that progressive leaders and members of the transport sector are also falling prey to extra-judicial killings, enforced disappearances, illegal arrests and detention and trumped up charges under Aquino.
In just three years of Aquino in power, four transport leaders have been murdered, San Mateo said.
Murdered transport leaders under Aquino:
1. Felix Cultura, local leader of PISTON in the Caraga Region, president of PISTON-affiliated Federation of Van Services in Caraga. Cultura was assassinated right in front of their terminal at Butuan City on March 2012;
2. Ernesto “Erning” Gulpo, president of Gasak-Divisoria Jeepney Drivers and Operators Association (GADIJODA-PISTON) was murdered in his home in Malabon on May 2012;
3. Estelito “Jing” Tebelin, Vice-President of Divisoria Baclaran Jeepney Operators and Drivers Association (DIBAJODA-PISTON), was murdered in front of his home in Longos, Bacoor on June 2012;
4. Feliciano “Poncing” Infante, president of PISTON-Pampanga and PASADA Jeepney Federation in Angeles City, was killed in front of their informal jeepney terminal in Angeles City on September 2012.
The murders of these leaders have not yet been given justice until now, San Mateo said.
Meanwhile, another Piston leader is in jail due to trumped up charges. Virgilio “Gil” Corpuz, regional coordinator of PISTON in Cagayan Valley and member of Piston’s National Council, has been imprisoned at Ifugao District Jail in Kiangan since January 3 of this year.
Corpuz, according to San Mateo, was arrested in his home in Santiago City, Isabela and was charged with trumped up murder case. He was also being implicated in an ambush reportedly launched by the New Peoples Army in Tinoc, Ifugao on April 2012. The ambush resulted in 10 soldiers killed.
San Mateo insisted that the charges filed aganst Corpuz is a big lie, saying Corpuz is a respected and legitimate transport leader and organizer of Piston and Piston Partylist in Cagayan Valley since 2004.
Corpuz was also one of the legal researchers of a Provincial Board Member in Isabela at the time he was arrested.
Piston called for the immediate release of Corpuz and of other political prisoners whom President Aquino is charging with criminal cases. The transport group condemned the Aquino government’s filing of trumped up charges against activists including transport leaders whose only “crime”, according to San Mateo, was to criticize the Aquino government’s “anti-people economic policies.”