Philippines: volunteers providing relief packs get red-tagged and charged with false accusationsEvent
- Initial Date
- Apr 19, 2020
- Event Description
Charges will be filed against former lawmaker Ariel Casilao and six other volunteers who were on their way to distribute relief packs in Bulacan province for allegedly violating quarantine rules, the Department of the Interior and Local Government said Monday.
The former Anakpawis party-list representative and six other volunteers of Sagip Kanayunan and Tulong Anakpawis relief operations were flagged down at a checkpoint in Norzagaray town Sunday morning.
They were brought to Norzagaray Municipal Police Station without clear explanation why there were brought there and then brought to Malolos Provincial Police Station �only to be yelled at for giving out �anti-government propaganda materials and accused of being supporters or recruiters of the New People�s Army,� Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura said Monday.
Casilao is vice chairperson of UMA.
Local Government Undersecretary Jonathan Malaya claimed the food pass acquired by the volunteers was unauthorized but fishers' group Pamalakaya said the food pass used for the relief efforts was issued by Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources national director Eduardo Gongona.
In a statement on Sunday, SAKA (Sama-samang Artista para sa Kilusang Agraryo) said the relief efforts in Bulacan have been done "in close coordination with Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas-affiliated peasant organizations" since the start of the Luzon lockdown.
"Organizations would directly purchase fresh produce from farmers in San Jose del Monte and Norzagaray for distribution to different communities, and would also bring relief packs to these farmers for needs they cannot grow in the agricultural land they till and struggle for," the group also said. 'Attempted mass gathering'
The DILG spokesperson accused the team of volunteers of attempting to conduct a mass gathering in the guise of distributing relief goods. He also claimed that tarpaulins and �propaganda materials� were found in the jeepney that ferried Casilao and other volunteers.
Malaya said the volunteers will be charged for allegedly violating the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act and Article 151 of the Revised Penal Code, which punishes resistance and disobedience to a person in authority.
Casilao will be also charged for usurpation of authority under Article 177 of the Revised Penal Code.
�Anakpawis will have their day in court. The DILG assures them of due process. Sa korte na sila magpaliwanag,� he said. �Blatant harassment�
Casilao slammed on Monday what he called �blatant harassment and outright red-tagging at a time when aid is urgently needed by the poor.�
�The government should stop criminalizing organizations and individuals who simply want to give much needed relief as they should stop arresting the poor for asking for aid just like what they did with San Roque 21,� he said, referring to the residents of Sitio San Roque who were arrested after demanding food and financial aid during a protest early in April.
Pamalakaya chair Fernando Hicap, former Anakpawis party-list representative, said the incident was a �vile harassment� against humanitarian volunteers who are considered frontliners.
�Contrary to the statement of [Undersecretary] Malaya, we underwent through a proper process in applying for the food pass, so that our delivery of relief packs to the distressed fishing and farming communities will not be hampered,� he also said.
The International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines, for its part, urged Philippine authorities to work with organizations that try to help people cope with the coronavirus pandemic.
- Impact of Event
- Gender of HRD
- Intimidation and Threats
- Judicial Harassment
- Rights Concerned
- Freedom of assembly
- Right to healthy and safe environment
- Community-based HRD
- Event Location
- Summary for Publications
On 19 April 2020, seven community-based defenders providing relief packs during the lockdown were red-tagged by the police and charged with false accusations in Norzagaray, the Philippines.