Pandacan community pantry shuts down
Residents collect free food packets from a food bank run by volunteers called a "community pantry" along a road in Quezon City suburban Manila on April 21, 2021.
AFP/Ted Aljibe

Pandacan community pantry shuts down

Marc Jayson Cayabyab (The Philippine Star) - April 23, 2021 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — A community pantry in Pandacan, Manila stopped its operations yesterday amid fears of being red-tagged by authorities.

Marikit Arellano, organizer of the pantry, made the announcement in a public post on a Facebook community pantry group.

Arellano said she decided to shut down the pantry after police asked for her personal information on Monday.

“I fear for the safety of my family,” she said.

In an interview with The STAR, Arellano said two police officers visited the pantry and asked her and other family members to fill out forms for their personal information.

“We felt worried about our security, especially with the red-tagging of those behind the community pantry initiatives,” she said.

Manila Police District (MPD) director Brig. Gen. Leo Francisco denied that the forms were given for profiling of pantry organizers.

Francisco said the forms would help police identify volunteers in the community.

Mayor Isko Moreno assured pantry organizers of their safety following reports of profiling and red-tagging.

Moreno said the city hall would protect community pantry organizers against any threats.

“They can resume anytime. They have the support of the city government,” he said.

Moreno said he ordered the MPD not to interfere with the community pantries in Manila.

“I ordered the district and station commanders not to disturb the people’s concern for others. You don’t need to ask permission to help others,” he said.

The National Privacy Commission has called on authorities to stop the profiling of pantry organizers whom it called “pandemic heroes.”

Curfew, health protocols

The Quezon City government reminded patrons of community pantries that the unified curfew in Metro Manila remains in effect from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m.

City hall reiterated its support for the organizers of community pantries, describing the initiative as a form of bayanihan.

Local officials reminded the public to observe health protocols to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Five persons were reportedly issued violation tickets by the city’s Task Force Disiplina when they lined up at the Maginhawa community pantry before the curfew was lifted.

Mayor Joy Belmonte said she would pay the fines for the ordinance violators in consideration of the circumstances. She warned them not to repeat the violation.

The organizer of Matatag community pantry in Quezon City slammed the police for allegedly interfering with their activities.

Ivanka Custodio criticized the Quezon City Police District (QCPD) after she saw a policeman taking photographs of the community pantry.

According to Custodio, the policeman told her that he was just checking if physical distancing protocols and other minimum health standards against COVID-19 are being followed.

She said the lawman only left when she told him they would call the city hall.

Custodio said the incident happened at around 1 p.m.

“Meron din pumunta sa umaga na may bitbit na baril,” she said.

QCPD director Brig. Gen. Antonio Yarra did not reply when asked to comment about the matter.

Custodio’s community pantry has gained popularity as it offers free condoms and HIV testing aside from food items.

Baclaran Church rector Rev. Fr. Victorino Cueto said community pantries aim to help the needy amid the pandemic.

The church opened its own community pantry. – Emmanuel Tupas, Janvic Mateo, Ralph Edwin Villanueva

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