MANILA, April 19, 2020
Six volunteers were arrested after their jeepney carrying relief goods was flagged down at a checkpoint in Norzagaray, Bulacan, Philippines according to Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP).
The volunteers were part of Tulong Anakpawis and Sagip Kanayunan and were supposed to distribute relief goods to fellow agricultural workers affected by the Luzon-wide lockdown.
Those arrested were initially brought to Norzagaray Police Station and then to the Provincial Philippine National Police Office in Malolos, Bulacan. As of this writing, no charges have been filed against them, KMP said.
The police did not give any reason on why they arrested the volunteers. KMP said their volunteers did not violate the protocol cited in the recently passed Republic Act 11469 or Bayanihan to Heal as One Act. KMP added that they have also complied with all the necessary requirements for their activities.
KMP said authorities confiscated the relief goods. The volunteers were told these would be turned over to the local government for distribution. KMP’s food pass, a requirement needed to transport vegetable produce that the farmers sell via online farmers’ market Bagkasan, was also confiscated. Copies of Pinoy Weekly magazine and KMP leaflets were among those seized.
“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.” Former Anakpawis Rep. Ariel Casilao said in a statement.
Bayan Muna Representative Eufemia Cullamat likewise condemned the arrest of the volunteers, saying it is an indication of the de-facto martial law in the country.
Earlier today, Armed Forces of the Philippines Spokesman Brig. Gen. Edgardo Arevalo confirmed the planned “martial law-like” implementation of extensive enhanced community quarantine.
Cullamat added there is no basis for the arrest. She called for the immediate release of the volunteers.
“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.”
By AARON MACARAEG