Shooting themselves in the foot

DEMAND AND SUPPLY - Boo Chanco (The Philippine Star) - April 23, 2021 - 12:00am

A country’s leader normally wants to unite the people, specially in a time of crisis like this pandemic. But Duterte is different and his minions take their cue from him.

The Duterte minions try to be little Dutertes. They only end up shooting themselves in the foot out of ignorance, stupidity, power drunk arrogance or all three.

It shouldn’t take a genius in the art of public relations to know it is stupid to take on a spontaneous citizen action like the community pantries. It was amazing to see how one such pantry along Maginhawa Street in Quezon City mushroomed into hundreds all over the country over one weekend.

After seeing how society’s poor are risking infection with the virus in long lines to get the government’s ayuda, private citizens simply offered food to the hungry. The ayuda, in any case, is so paltry it will not cover more than a day or two of an ordinary family’s food needs.

Actually, this outburst of Christian charity is not surprising. We see that when calamities strike.

The Duterte minions should have welcomed this citizen assistance the way Palace spokesman Harry Roque did. But some folks got insecure and called out the police to red-tag the organizers of these community pantries.

The police and the military tried to mess up what everyone thinks is a great idea in a time of extreme need. They gave the Duterte administration a black eye that was totally avoidable.

LGUs quickly dissociated with a DILG Usec, and the DILG Secretary disowned his Usec’s call for a permit to set up community pantries. The Secretary of Justice said “a person voluntarily doing an act of kindness and compassion toward his neighbor should be left alone.”

QC Mayor Joy Belmonte chastised the police for questioning the QC resident who started the community pantry movement. Belmonte urged the anti-insurgency NTF-ELCAC to coordinate with local authorities before questioning their constituents.

“Our job is to protect and make them (public) feel safe, what they’re (NTF-ELCAC) doing is the opposite,” the Mayor said.

What got the attention of the anti-communist task force is the slogan in all the pantries: Magbigay ayon sa kakayahan; Kumuha batay sa pangangailangan.

The NTF-ELCAC thought it sounded Marxist: From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs. I doubt if most of the organizers are familiar with Marxist ideology. They only wanted to help.

Indeed, I don’t think anyone of them thinks these community pantries are sustainable. Pantawid gutom lang. The community pantries are only there to help with the immediate needs of the people while the government takes care of the long-term.

Government is expected to get the economy running soon so people can take care of their own needs. According to NEDA, P83 billion in wages and income were lost in the NCR plus ECQ.

This was not the first time feeding the poor made the Duterte administration feel insecure. Last year, The New York Times reported this incident in San Roque, a community of 6000 families in Quezon City.

“Priests in clerical collars and rugged jeans were busily making lunches… As the meals were being prepared, riot police officers moved in to break up the feeding program. They accused leftist organizations of using it to recruit people to campaign against the government.

“The officers, some in black uniforms and others in combat fatigues, carried batons and long firearms… After tense negotiations, a commander, who refused to identify himself, finally relented. But he warned the group to break up after the food was distributed, and to practice social distancing.

“‘We are just serving the people,’ said King Garcia, a 39-year-old priest.

“‘The government has left them at the fringes at a time when they needed help the most,’ he said. ‘If the virus does not kill them, hunger will.’”

The community pantry is essentially the traditional Filipino bayanihan spirit in action. There is this story in a tweet about an old man who doesn’t seem to be well off. The tweeter thought he was one of those who fell in line to get some goods from the community pantry.

But he surprised the pantry attendants when he handed them three packs of noodles. He was donating the three packs of noodles to the pantry as his contribution for distribution to the people.

Reminds you of the widow and her mite. Our Lord Jesus told us the story of the widow who gives two small copper coins to the temple treasury. Jesus describes how great her gift is because it represents a greater proportion of her wealth than the larger gifts of the Pharisees.

That’s grassroots selflessness that politicians and generals in power will not understand or appreciate. The pantries are saying there is serious hunger among our people that is not being adequately addressed.

While government resources are limited, there is unlimited government incompetence in addressing widespread hunger. I guess, the military and the police are making sure no one profits from Duterte’s failure.

Instead of red tagging the pantry organizers, the NTF-ELCAC should have set up their own community pantries. They are more than amply funded by P18 billion of our taxes. The Eastern Police District did that in Pasig.

Foreign Secretary Teddyboy Locsin’s tweet sums up what most people think:

“… feeding the hungry is all that matters. Those who hate the government have the absolute right to feed the hungry and do other good works no matter their motivation.

“What idiots trying to stop good works by threatening it with assassination should put up rival community pantries and compete in the marketplace of eggs and veggies. There is a new COVID variant: kabobohan.”

That Badoy woman who speaks for the NTF-ELCAC is supposed to be a doctor. She should organize medical clinics. VP Leni’s volunteer doctors are finding out there are so many people who want to talk to a doctor during this pandemic.

There is no need to be jealous of the good works of non-Duterte supporters. There is so much to do and so many lives to save. The Duterte minions shouldn’t waste ammunition by shooting themselves in the foot.



Boo Chanco’s e-mail address is bchanco@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @boochanco

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