Ex-Anakpawis congressman Casilao, relief volunteers detained in Bulacan

MANILA, Philippines – Former Anakpawis representative Ariel Casilao and several others who were on their way to deliver relief goods were detained in Norzagaray, Bulacan, on Sunday, April 19.

In a statement on Sunday, the leftist Makabayan bloc of the House of Representatives said the relief volunteers were stopped at the Norzagaray checkpoint at around 10:15 am, ahead of their Tulong Anakpawis and Sagip Kanayunan relief operation for those affected by the Luzon lockdown.

Makabayan said 6 relief volunteers, including the driver of the jeepney carrying the relief goods, were brought to the police station.

"The police did not give any reason why they were apprehended," the group said.

Several residents who were supposed to receive the goods were also allegedly told to go to the police station.

Makabayan said the relief volunteers were initially allowed to leave the police station at around 12:30 pm after Casilao "negotiated" with Norzagaray police chief Lieutenant Colonel Jaime Quicho.

"They agreed that the goods will be turned over to the barangay for distribution to the beneficiaries. However, after a few minutes, the relief volunteers were called back to the police station. They are still being held without any offense or violation," Makabayan said.

"Based on latest information, they were brought to the Bulacan Police Provincial Office in Malolos, Bulacan. We are demanding the immediate release of the volunteers."

Makabayan condemned what it said was the "harassment of groups and individuals who are only giving relief goods to our already hungry people affected by the lockdown."

"It seems that this is the intensification of the martial law-like lockdown as contained in an AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) memo," the group said.

On Sunday, AFP spokesperson Brigadier General Edgard Arevalo confirmed the issuance of an internal memorandum advising troops to "prepare for strict implementation of extensive enhanced community quarantine where the AFP will be the overall in charge along roads and highways."

But Arevalo said President Rodrigo Duterte has yet to issue a final deployment order. Duterte earlier said he would order the military and the police to take over if Filipinos break lockdown rules.

The entire island of Luzon is on lockdown until April 30 to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, which has so far infected 6,259 people in the Philippines. Businesses have ground to a halt, affecting workers and their families who now badly need aid. – Rappler.com