ALBAY, Philippines – Three days after being held at the Norzagaray police station, 6 volunteers of Tulong Anakpawis - Sagip Kanayunan relief drive, and former Anakpawis Party-list Representative Ariel 'Ayik' Casilao who came to their aid, are now free after posting bail of P40,000 each.
“We extend our sincere gratitude to our friends, colleagues, and families who campaigned for our release and contributed for our bail," said Casilao, who is also the National Vice President of Anakpawis Party-list.
They were charged with violating Republic Act 11332 or the Mandatory Reporting of Notifiable Diseases and Health Events of Public Health Concern Act, and the Revised Penal Code on Inciting to Sedition.
Casilao was also charged with Usurpation of Authority.
Casilao reitirated that their volunteers did nothing wrong and did not violate any of the quarantine rules, contrary to the charges of the Norzagaray police.
"It was an attack on activists carrying out humanitarian activities [which] adhered to the bayanihan spirit in this time of an emergency situation,” he said.
"Our illegal arrest and detention expose the government’s failure in addressing the pandemic, that instead of a medical solution, it is resorting to arrests and imprisonment, which basically defeat the purpose of physical distancing especially if being detained in congested prison cells," Casilao added.
On April 19, at around 10:15 a.m., the relief volunteers were apprehended at the checkpoint in the boundaries of San Jose Del Monte City and Norzagaray in Bulacan.
They were on a humanitarian relief mission scheduled to deliver relief packs to a farming community of Sitio Kalye Onse, Barangay Bigte, Norzagaray, Bulacan.
Despite having a government-issued food pass and volunteers wearing face masks and observing physical distancing inside the vehicle, the police apprehended them and took them to Norzagaray police station for questioning.
Anakpawis urged the public to condemn what they call the ‘martial law-like’ approach to the health crisis, instead of an extensive medical solution to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.
The former solon said that the Tulong Anakpawis - Sagip Kanayunan will continue to deliver relief aid to communities of farmers, fisherfolk, and urban poor that are hit by the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ).
"It is both [the] right and duty of every Filipino to aid those in need. The government has no moral authority to sabotage the relief efforts of activists. The delivery of nutri-lief packs to the impoverished communities will continue," he said. – Rappler.com