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LIST: Local governments throw support behind community pantries
Combination photo shows Manila Mayor Isko Moreno, Quezon City Mayor Joy Belmonte, Pasig City Mayor Vico Sotto and Cainta Mayor Kit Nieto.
The STAR, Vico Sotto via Twitter and Johnielle Keith Pasion Nieto via Facebook

LIST: Local governments throw support behind community pantries

Franco Luna (Philstar.com) - April 22, 2021 - 6:24pm

MANILA, Philippines (Corrected 7:25 a.m.) — Many local chief executives have thrown their support behind the spate of community pantries sprouting all over the country looking to feed the hungry. 

Others have also gone as far as vowing protection for pantry organizers who fear for their safety or feel they are being profiled. Despite this, many organizers and volunteers are still reporting harassment and intimidation from state forces as of Thursday afternoon. 

At the same time, confusion still remains on whether permits are needed to set the pantries up. Interior Secretary Eduardo Año said he would leave it up to barangays, though two of his undersecretaries offered differing pronouncements in separate interviews. 

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

Here's a quick rundown of what some mayors have said. 

Cainta 

"Yes, we support them for as long as they are privately initiated and they comply with protocols, I am all for it. I've said they don't even need a permit to do that. Those community pantries are only something that should be encouraged using private initiatives so they can help the government," Mayor Kit Nieto told Philstar.com in a phone call. 

Asked what sort of action the municipal government would be taking on complaints on profiling from police, the local chief executive said: "That will not happen in my town. The police already know my direction on it and my stand on it, so they will be towing the line for as long as they are within my bounds."

"But the moment there will be some anarchy or disorder in their areas, then I will be forced to use government manpower to stop it," he added. 

Mandaluyong City 

In a Facebook post, Mayor Carmelita Abalos said that the city government would not be requiring permits for community pantries but encouraged volunteers to first coordinate with their barangays. 

"This is a laudable socio-civic initiative that must be encouraged. However, this is not to say that community pantries should be exempt from the laws and ordinances of the city. No matter how noble the cause, everything should be conducted within the bounds of the law," she said.

"Hence, we encourage organizers of community pantries here in the city to coordinate with their respective barangays. In this manner, we could help them choose the best location where most people could benefit and at the same time, where there would be no obstruction. Our barangays could also help in terms of enforcement of minimum health and safety protocols." 

City of Manila

"Our policy is very simple: you don't need a permit to do good deeds," Manila Mayor Isko Moreno said in an interview aired over ANC's "Matters of Fact" on Thursday.

"What is important to us as long as love is given to our countrymen, to our neighbors, must be supported. We cannot just make claims and, you know, resort to red-tagging everyone when they do good."

One community pantry in the city has already closed down over fears of personal security. Other viral accounts on social media also say that organizers were made to fill up personal data sheets by local police.

Organizers who alleged this opted not to comment when sought by Philstar.com for interviews, citing personal safety.

Sought for comment on the Pandacan pantry that was closed due to red-tagging, the mayor told reporters: "They can resume anytime, they have the support of the city government. They can visit us here in city hall." 

READ: Another community pantry shuts down after profiling of Pandacan organizers

Muntinlupa City

In a text message, City Information Officer Tez Navarro told Philstar.com: "No need."

Mayor Jaime Fresnedi "supports The Bayanihan spirit of community Pantry organizers," she said. 

"As long [as the] organizers clearly follow the DILG and coordinates with barangays for crowd control [and] health protocols, they can proceed."

Pasay City

Mayor Emi Calixto-Rubiano also said she supported the practice, saying the pantries "show that the spirit of Bayanihan is still very much alive among our Filipinos."

She made no mention of protection for organizers in the event of harassment, though she suggested that organizers "set a time in the morning and afternoon so that people know what time they are going."

"I just ask that we do this in an orderly manner so the organizers should first contact the barangays where they will build it," she said in a statement to reporters. 

"Apart from being in order, the basic health protocols must still be followed, so coordination with the barangay is important to help them maintain order in the queue."

Pasig City 

Mayor Vico Sotto held similar sentiments on the need for a permit, saying: "We don't need a 'permit to help.'"

"We commend the individuals who are helping as they can afford. Government has limited resources, so any effort to help others is very welcome," he said in a tweet. 

Quezon City 

Mayor Joy Belmonte has expressed her support for the idea and even vowed to protect Ana Patricia Non, who set up the very first community pantry along Maginhawa Street. 

“In these difficult times, let’s allow kindness and selflessness to prevail,” said Belmonte.

The Quezon City Task Force Disiplina, however, is still enforcing curfew hours for those looking to line up early. 

According to reports from the task force, early-goers were accosted and told to go back home as curfew hours were still in effect. Tweet reports from ABS-CBN News, however, say that the same people were also issued ordinance violation receipts and charged P300 each.

"The People's Law Enforcement Board of Quezon City will investigate the apparent red-tagging incident on the organizers of the Community Pantry in Maginhawa. It is beyond comprehension why allegedly certain members of our PNP approached them to ask for the organizer's cellphone number and her affiliations," lawyer Ralph Calinisan, who chairs the QC People's Law Enforcement Board also told Philstar.com in a text message. 

"In Quezon City, abusive cops will not be tolerated."

RELATED: QCPD social media team gets 'reminder' for linking community pantries to rebels

San Juan City 

"We welcome the opening of community pantries in San Juan. It's always nice to see people with more blessings sharing to those who are less fortunate," Mayor Francis Zamora said in a statement. 

"This is the bayanihan spirit of the Filipino people at work." 

Valenzuela City

Metro Manila Development Authority chair Benhur Abalos also told Philstar.com that the Metro Manila Council has not met about the issue yet, but that he was personally in support of the pantries.

"The Metro Manila Council has not met about this yet, so I cannot comment as far as the council is concerned...but what they're doing is laudable, and when it comes to the spirit of bayanihan, we're really all for it," he said. 

Abalos opted not to comment on the cases of organizers who reported intimidation from authorities. 

 

This is a developing story. Check back for updates. 

 

 

Disclosure: Quezon City Mayor Joy Belmonte is a shareholder of Philstar Global Corp., which operates digital news outlet Philstar.com. This article was produced following editorial guidelines

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