Human rights watchdog Karapatan decried the government’s continuing militarist response to the 2019 coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic following the illegal arrest of volunteers set to distribute humanitarian aid to urban poor and peasant communities in Norzagaray, Bulacan as well as the arbitrary arrest of a screenwriter in Cebu City over a satirical Facebook post regarding the halting of mass testing in an urban poor community in the city.
“Instead of heeding calls for mass testing and fast-tracking of socioeconomic relief in vulnerable communities, the government seems to be more preoccupied with arresting critics and activists — even those who are working to distribute humanitarian aid in underserved communities affected by the lockdown measures to curb the pandemic,” Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay stated.
At around 10:15 a.m. today, April 19, a relief operation by Tulong Anakpawis and Sagip Kanayunan were blocked at a checkpoint in Norzagaray, Bulacan. Six volunteers, including the driver of the jeepney carrying relief goods, were brought to the Norzagaray Municipal Police Station where they were blatantly red-tagged by police personnel as members of the New People’s Army. Copies of alternative periodical Pinoy Weekly, informational pamphlets, banners, and 50 relief packs were also confiscated by the police. After being unjustly detained without charges for hours, the six volunteers along with former Anakpawis Party-list Rep. Ariel “Ka Ayik” Casilao — who came to the volunteers’ aid — are still being held at the police station.
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