Senators: Leave community pantries alone
Residents wanting to pick up some vegetables and other goods at the Maginhawa community pantry queue along the sidewalk of Maginhawa Sreet in Quezon City before dawn on Tuesday, April 20, 2021.
The STAR/Miguel de Guzman

Senators: Leave community pantries alone

Bella Perez-Rubio (Philstar.com) - April 20, 2021 - 8:43pm

MANILA, Philippines — Eight senators on Tuesday told authorities to stop profiling and red-tagging community pantry organizers who are trying to help feed the hungry amid the pandemic.

They said this after harassment from Quezon City police and the government's anti-communist task force caused Ana Patricia Non who organized the pioneering Maginhawa community pantry to temporarily halt the project on Tuesdsay for the safety of its volunteers. 

As a result, droves of people hoping for food qued along Maginhawa street before dawn only to leave empty-handed. 

In a joint statement, Sens. Nancy Binay, Leila de Lima, Frank Drilon, Sherwin Gatchalian, Risa Hontiveros, Kiko Pangilinan, Grace Poe, and Ralph Recto, condemned social media posts of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict and police who tried to solicit personal information from organizers. 

"The profiling of organizers must stop," the senators said.

"It puts people’s lives in danger, knowing how notorious some police, military officers, and personnel are in red-tagging progressives and now civic-minded citizens who only want to do good for their fellow men and women." 

Other community pantries have also reported similar harassment incidents with cops who were looking to profile them. 

"These community pantries have offered a venue for showing the true bayanihan spirit amid the hunger and poverty in this time of the pandemic. It is deplorable to paint this initiative with suspicions of communist links," the senators said.

"We see you," lawmakers told organizers of community pantries nationwide.

"We all know this is a community effort. We celebrate your energies and we stand with you all. We will always protect and uphold our fundamental rights, especially those toward a functioning and participative democracy." 

Accountability unlikely as Palace skirts red-tagging concerns 

Malacañang reiterated on Tuesday that it recognizes the bayanihan spirit of community pantry organizers and said that "[u]nless their concern is about health protocols not being observed, [authorities] should let these communities pantries alone." 

READ: Permit or not? Mixed messages as gov't unsure how to address community pantries

However, presidential spokesman Harry Roque did not address the issue, saying instead that the accusations are part of the "free market of ideas". He also chose not to directly answer when asked if members of the NTF-ELCAC would be held accountable for their posts online. 

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra later Tuesday said community pantry organizers “have no legal duty or are under any compulsion to fill out any forms, as these are not considered business, much less illegal activities.”

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