Cops detain ex-lawmaker, volunteers on their way to deliver aid

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, April 19) — Former congressman Ariel Casilao and volunteers of Tulong Anakpawis and Sagip Kanayunan, who were set to distribute relief packages in a town in Bulacan, were detained by the provincial police on Sunday.

The volunteers were on their way to deliver aid to a peasant community when they were blocked and apprehended by officers at a checkpoint in Norzagaray in the morning of April 19.

The cops, however, did not inform them of their violations.

A party-list group said the volunteers were permitted to leave by noon, after Casilao made an agreement with the police to turn over the goods for distribution.

But after a few minutes, the volunteers were called back and detained again in the station.

"Sa aktwal, wala pa kaming hawak na dokumento para mag-proceed ang inquest. Bukas pa malalaman lahat—kung sinong kinasuhan at anong kaso—since detained kami lahat ngayon... 'Yun ang assumption," Casilao told CNN Philippines.

[Translation: They have yet to provide us the document needed for an inquest to proceed. We will know who among us were charged—and what the charges are—by tomorrow, since we are all detained now... That's the assumption.]

"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," the lawmaker reiterated in a separate statement attained by the network.

Casilao was later notified that the packages were delivered to the target beneficiaries, according to his text message to CNN Philippines.

Several groups are now calling for the release of the detained relief volunteers.