BULACAN, Philippines – Former AnakPawis Representative Ariel Casilao was detained along with six volunteers on a relief mission to Norzagaray, Bulacan on Sunday and were charged for violating the Bayanihan Act.
Casilao and his volunteers were delivering 50 packs of “Nutri-lief” to Norzagaray communities affected by the enhanced community quarantine when they were held at a checkpoint at the Norzagaray-San Jose del Monte boundary at 10:15 in the morning.
Police confiscated the food pass the volunteers were carrying that was issued by the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, this according to reports from the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas and was told to proceed to the Norzagaray police station for questioning.
Casilao at first was able to negotiate with Norzagaray Police Chief Lt. Col. Jaime Quicho and agreed that they be released, while their relief packs be turned over to officials of Barangay Bigte for distribution.
The relief pack of Tulong AnakPawis contained food, vitamins, soap, and a primer on Covid-19.
However, Casilao and the volunteers were told to return to the station, and were detained for violation of the Bayanihan Act or RA 11469 for being “unauthorized persons outside their area”.
A live video posted on the Facebook page of Sinagbayan-PUP showed Police Regional Director General Rhodel Semonia in an exchange with Casilao, saying the primers they brought are not allowed. “There should be no propaganda,” he said in Filipino.
Casilao maintained they had not violated any laws and even practiced physical distancing and wearing of masks. They also had the necessary pass to carry out the relief drive.
“(W)e have not violated any rules of the RA 11469 or the Bayanihan Act. We have been conducting relief operations since the first week of the lockdown,” Casilao was quoted on the Kilusang Mayo Uno page.
The Tulong AnakPawis campaign is a joint relief drive with Sagip Kanayunan, intended to help urban and rural poor families who have not gotten relief amid the quarantine. The campaign has reportedly served more than 2,000 families in Cavite, Bulacan, Rizal, Batangas, Isabela, Cagayan, and Sorsogon.
Casilao, who is a former spokesperson of Karapatan Southern Mindanao, said, “This is harassment, plain and simple. We have no violations. The police also can’t justify why they are refusing to release our volunteers. We are in a crisis situation. Now is not the time to prosecute activists and cause-oriented groups who are engaged in humanitarian and relief efforts.”
Kilusang Mayo Uno calls a stop to “arbitrary arrests and harassment of those who are launching initiatives and doing volunteer work to help fellowmen in this time of crisis.” (davaotoday.com)