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Another community pantry shuts down after profiling of Pandacan organizers
Residents line up to get free food and supplies as the Maginhawa community pantry in Quezon City reopens on Wednesday, April 21, 2021.
The STAR/Michael Varcas

Another community pantry shuts down after profiling of Pandacan organizers

Franco Luna (Philstar.com) - April 22, 2021 - 11:19am

MANILA, Philippines — (Updated 3:07 p.m.) The redbaiting of community pantry organizers continues as another pantry in Pandacan, Manila opted to close its doors over fears of the safety of its volunteers. 

In a Facebook post, Marikit Arellano, the pantry’s organizer, said that the decision came after the pantry's volunteers were profiled and harassed by police officers asking for personal details such as their affiliated organizations. 

"We decided to close the community pantry because my family is worried that we might be red-tagged," the post by Arellano reads, adding that cops came by and asked them to fill up a form before the community pantries went viral. 

"We were scared of what they might do if we refused to fill it up...We fear for our personal security because of what happened."

RELATED: What to do if law enforcers visit your community pantry? Diokno offers tips

Arellano earlier opted not to speak with media when sought for interview by Philstar.com for fear of the group's safety. 

This comes just a day after the Philippine National Police promised it would not interfere with "voluntary private sector initiatives."

Sought for comment, Manila City Mayor Isko Moreno told reporters: "They can resume anytime, they have the support of the city government. They can visit us here in city hall." 

According to the mapmaking page Saan Yan PH on Facebook, at least 358 community pantries have been mapped around the country. 

Other pantries being harassed, too

Arellano's experience mirrors that of many other community pantry organizers, who have reported intimidation and profiling from police officers. 

READ: Harassment of community pantries leads to clamped operations

It is unclear what links government officials, especially the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict, saw between community initiatives feeding the hungry and communist insurgency. 

At an interview Wednesday, National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. admitted that the NTF-ELCAC was looking into "possible links" between pantry organizers and armed rebel groups. 

“We also look into organizers especially if they advertise their organization that would be traced to the legal fronts of the front organization of the CPP-NPA,” he said then. 

"We would also like to look into possible participation of personalities that may have other agenda that may tend to turn these projects for political and agitational purposes."

RELATED: Criminalize red-tagging? Lacson says Constitution will be his guide

Membership in the Communist Party of the Philippines is not a crime in 2021, neither are "agitational purposes" for that matter. 

However, lawmakers and progressive groups alike have warned the government that its rampant practice of red-tagging may only lead to violence on the part of the accused. 

Later Thursday,  Police Brig. Gen. Leo Francisco, Director of the Manila Police District, also denied that community pantry organizers are being red-tagged or profiled. 

In a statement sent to reporters, Francisco claimed that "there is nothing to worry about police presence" as their only directive is to ensure the observance of health protocols and to assist in the distribution of food items. 

"Community pantries are all over the place. This is to offer reprieve and augmentation for those who have less in life. These serves as a recourse to meet the needs of our kababayan's meal for the day," Francisco said. 

"There is no truth that an individual is being profiled or red-tagged."

Like other ranking police chiefs, he did not address the well-documented cases of police approaching organizers and asking for personal details. 

"The Manila Police District completely supports and welcomes this endeavor...There will be no profiling or whatever as they were deployed for the purpose of peace and order," he also said. 

MANILA POLICE DISTRICT MPD PHILIPPINE NATIONAL POLICE PNP
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