After week of accusations, NTF-ELCAC says it supports community pantries

After week of accusations, NTF-ELCAC says it supports community pantries
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

MANILA, Philippines — The national government's red-tagging task force vowed to back the community pantries it earlier accused, without basis, of being spurred by the communist insurgency. 

National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon confirmed in a ONE News report that a 'gag order' was placed on Lt. Gen. Antonio Parlade and Presidential Communications Undersecretary Lorraine Badoy following their wild claims on the community pantries put up around the country to feed the hungry.

"I have earlier asked the two spokespersons to desist from issuing further statements on the community pantries. The official stand of the NTF-ELCAC is to support and encourage bayanihan/community pantries," Esperon is quoted by ONE News as saying.

Esperon himself is a member of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict, whose spokespersons Parlade and Badoy have been on the receiving end of criticism over their comments for the past week. 

The two have been unyielding in their accusations that the organizers of community pantries are linked to the communist insurgency. Parlade even went as far as likening Ana Patricia Non, who put up the first pantry in the country, to Satan. 

“She did it alone right? That Ana Patricia. Same with Satan. Satan gave an apple to Eve. That's how it started," Parlade said partially in Filipino during an interview with ONE News' "The Chiefs" on Tuesday. 

It was red-tagging that prompted Ana Patricia Non, who put up the first community pantry in Maginhawa, to close up shop for the day out of fear for her volunteers' safety. 

'Sayang lang pera'

Other community pantries have also reported incidents of red-tagging on social media and attempts from authorities to profile them. 

The NTF-ELCAC's sudden support for the community pantries comes after the NTF-ELCAC's gaffes reignited calls to defund the anti-communist task force by lawmakers. 

At least five senators have publicly expressed the desire to reallocate the taxpayer money going to the task force, which has been caught in a lie on more than one occasion.

Even the Palace has issued direct orders for the task force to stand down and "let these community pantries alone." 

It is unclear if the defunding will push through this time around, with senators already concluding once before "that criminalizing 'red-tagging' is no longer necessary" due to the availability of legal remedies.

READ: 'Sayang lang pera’: Senators want to defund red-tagging task force

'Who is the instrument of Satan?'

Criticism against the NTF-ELCAC persisted well into the weekend.

"For me, these acts of officials, especially at such a time, are very much misplaced and irresponsible," Vice President Leni Robredo said on her radio show earlier Sunday. 

"We can see that although they are being red-tagged, more people are inspired by the movement," she added, urging government to instead learn from the movement instead of maligning it.

Even the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines weighed in, with its vice president, Caloocan Bishop Pablo Virgilio David, D.D. hitting Parlade's "Satan" comparison in a homily on Sunday. 

"Ana Patricia Non, who started it all was accused of being a wolf in sheep's clothing. Ironically, the accusation came from a military man whose job in the government is supposed to be that of the Sheperd who protects the sheep from wolves," he said. 

"Perhaps today's Gospel can help us discern who between the two is the true shepherd and who is the real wolf; who is the instrument of God, and who is the instrument of Satan?" 

— Franco Luna with reports from Bella Perez-Rubio and ONE News PH 

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