Drop all charges vs. Casilao, relief volunteers — farmers

The Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas and Tanggol Magsasaka today urged the Norzagaray Municipal Trial Court to drop all charges against Sagip Kanayunan relief volunteers who were charged with inciting to sedition. Farmers also sought the dismissal of the usurpation of authority case slapped against former Anakpawis Rep. Ariel Casilao. The volunteers were accosted at a checkpoint in Norzagaray, Bulacan last April 19. Today is their scheduled arraignment for inciting to sedition.

The inciting to sedition case was filed after the PNP Norzagaray confiscated reading materials and publications critical of the Duterte administration. A separate case — the violation of Section 9 (d) of RA 11332 was previously junked by Judge Julie Rita Suarez-Badillo as she argued that traveling outside the residence without a travel permit or a quarantine pass does not qualify as non-cooperation in violation of Republic Act No. 11332 or the Mandatory Reporting of Notifiable Diseases and Health Events of Public Concern Act.

“We fervently urge the good court to junk the remaining charges against the Sagip Kanayunan relief volunteers.”

“The inciting to sedition charge against the volunteers is baseless. Mere possession of publication expressing opinion on the incumbent administration is not a seditious act and not enough to indict anyone. We still have our Constitutionally-guaranteed rights of freedom of expression and freedom of speech. The relief volunteers’ only intent was to distribute aid and relief to farmers. Bakit ang mga tumutulong ang kinasuhan at gustong ikulong?,” says Antonio Flores of Tanggol Magsasaka. “The usurpation of authority charge against Casilao is equally ludicrous as he did not falsely represented himself. He went to the aid of the relief volunteers clearly as a former representative of Anakpawis and as the coordinator of Sagip Kanayunan national relief drive,” Flores added.

“The cases filed by the Norzagaray PNP are only meant to harass and threaten relief volunteers and organizations expressing discontent with the government’s response to the pandemic. Nalantad sa buong bansa na ang PNP at si NCRPO chief Debold Sinas mismo ang lumabag sa mga batas na ipinatutupad nila. Ni hindi sila nakasuhan at pinaligtas na lang,” Flores further said. Aside from Casilao, the volunteers who are facing charges are from KMP, Unyon ng Magsasaka sa Agrikultura, Sinagbayan, and Anakpawis Partylist.

Likewise, the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas said cases against other relief volunteers should also be dismissed, like the Marikina 10 community kitchen volunteers who were arrested and charged with illegal assembly last May. ###

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