Despite NTF-ELCAC claims, Palace says community pantries welcome
Volunteers arrange goods for the new community pantry along Matatag Street in Quezon City as its counterpart in Maginhawa Street stops operation on April 20, 2021 due to alleged "red-tagging" by the police and the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict.
The STAR/Michael Varcas

Despite NTF-ELCAC claims, Palace says community pantries welcome

Alexis Romero (Philstar.com) - April 22, 2021 - 5:43pm

MANILA, Philippines — The government allows the setting up of more community pantries, Malacañang said Thursday, as some organizers of stalls that offer free food worry about their safety because of attempts to link them to communist rebels.

"As far as the community pantry is concerned, the position of the president is clear. The position of the DILG (Department of the Interior and Local Government) and PNP (Philippine National Police) is clear. Let a thousand community pantries bloom," presidential spokesman Harry Roque said at a press briefing.

Lt. Gen. Antonio Parlade Jr., National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) spokesman, has admitted that the task force is "checking" the situation in areas where community pantries are located. 

He has also likened the Maginhawa community pantry, the first stall to provide free food to the needy, to the apple given by Satan to Eve.

Ana Patricia Non, who organized the Maginhawa pantry that has been replicated in other parts of the country, was forced to suspend the operations of the stall last Tuesday because of safety concerns.

The pantry has since resumed its operations but NTF-ELCAC is now actively pushing the narrative that she has links to communist rebels.

Asked whether Duterte would ask Parlade to refrain from issuing statements about the community pantries, Roque replied: "Perhaps (DILG) Secretary (Eduardo) Año and I will talk to (Defense) Secretary Delfin Lorenzana because that is the proper chain of command. I think General Parlade reports to Secretary Lorenzana."

"It's not a secret that there were instances when Secretary Lorenzana had ordered General Parlade to be careful with his declarations," he added.

Last February, Roque said Lorenzana asked some generals, including Parlade, to stop issuing statements on the red-baiting of journalists.

While supportive of community pantries, Malacañang is opposed to calls to defund the NTF-ELCAC, saying its budget is being used to promote development in insurgency-affected areas.

"I think the funds of ELCAC are for projects that spur development and progress in places where there are rebels. I think it is not justified," Roque said.

"Hayaan nating gawin nila ang katungkulan nila kung meron talaga silang opisyal na ginagawa diyan pero ang polisiya po ay malinaw (Let us just allow them to perform their duties if they are doing something official there but our policy is clear)," he added.

Roque reiterated that everything that can help the poor is welcome to the president.

"At ang atin po, bayanihan, hindi bangayan (unity, not bickering). We think, and I will repeat it, that the community pantries represent the best of the Filipino in the worst of times," the Palace spokesman said.

"If the people from ELCAC need to do something to perform their mandate, it's up to them. But our general policy is we welcome these community pantries, everything that helps our countrymen. That is also the position of DILG and PNP. We will leave it at that." 

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