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Red tag or tag along?

CTALK - Cito Beltran (The Philippine Star) - April 21, 2021 - 12:00am

What started out as a very kind and generous project to give to the needy has blossomed into something that attracts angels and demons and brings out the best and the worst among us. The Maginhawa Community Pantry is our local version of similar Acts of Random Kindness that surfaced in the United States and WAS popularized through social media. The idea is that someone simply wants to help others and hopefully more people will join in and add to the effort. Culturally speaking, such acts of kindness and generosity is part of the Filipino community values and the only difference is that generally speaking, among Filipinos the giving is done on a personal or person-to-person basis because, as Asians and Filipinos in particular, we value face-saving and honor. Embarrassment and a sense of indebtedness should not be placed on top of being in need.

I praise those who brought the idea home to the Philippines as well as those who have copied and put up their own community pantry all over Metro Manila. So if the “project” is so praise worthy, why then are the organizers getting red tagged, why are the cops poking their fingers into someone else’s pie and why has the idea become so politicized? The simplest but shallowest analysis would be to say that the police are suspicious of anybody and everybody, but honestly that won’t be fair, balanced or objective. Yes, the cops walked into the scene asking politically incorrect questions. The question is why did the police do so?

You have to take into consideration that our police officers live daily in a “damned if you do – damned if you don’t” reality. The community pantry slowly but surely created crowds and where crowds gather, people litter, people loiter, neighbors who think they own the sidewalk and part of the street in front of their homes complain, the media show up with cameras to feature the interesting story or frictions and before you know it, some precinct commander or higher up starts raising their voice, asking why there is a crowd or mass gathering on site.

Pity the poor patrolmen and women who have to go where kindness and goodness abound with orders to disperse, reduce or “do something” so that the precinct commander does not get hell from his superiors. Ideally, it would have been nice if the barangay and the cops were consulted, but I don’t think the initiators of the Maginhawa Pantry even imagined things would get “Big.” I honestly don’t think that the cops would have been willing to allow lines of people on the sidewalk if they were asked in the beginning.

Things being as they are, the police visits have become an opportunity for recognition and maybe promotion for cops IF they handle the matter well. In short, everybody has his or her own agenda or issue to worry about. As far as the red tagging is concerned, it works. It has become an effective instrument in disrupting persons or groups of interest or concern to the police or the military without physically engaging them and it certainly draws media attention, which in turn gets the attention of bosses and higher-ups in the police/military bureaucracy. At a time when the Duterte administration’s utter incompetence or failure to address public concerns has become noticeable or evident, a “red tagging” exercise distracts the media and therefore the public from the failed leadership and government of the current administration.

Truth be told, many of today’s issues such as the “loyalty issue” within the military and the absence of President Duterte from the public eye along with the red tagging of a community pantry all seem to be part of a media campaign to draw people’s attention away from the absence of vaccines, the unrelenting spread of COVID-19, the high prices of food and basic commodities and the unpopular stance of President Duterte regarding the West Philippine Sea, etc.

President Duterte himself has said that he intentionally and mischievously made himself scarce just to annoy his critics. The alleged “loyalty issue” within the military is so preposterous given how they have all benefitted financially from the perks and increases they have received from PRRD. In the same manner the “red tagging” that is being further fanned by the same characters in uniform is just another attempt to distract Filipinos.

As unpopular as the police visits may have been at community pantries, there is a ray of hope or an example that the PNP can copy from one of their own, particularly the Pasig police or Eastern police unit that has reportedly opened up their own community pantry where some cops even give out Bibles! This is clearly an example of “If you can’t beat them, join them.” The PNP and the AFP need only remind themselves that back when strict lockdowns and checks were being implemented, police and military personnel, who gave face masks to individuals without them, were praised on social media. I even remember a police officer who gave P5,000 in cash to an individual who was down on his luck at a police checkpoint, only to be repaid or rewarded by a similar cash gift from an anonymous donor.

As they say, it is better to give than to receive and for those who are so lazy that they would rather red tag than tag along with the Community Pantries, the Bible commands us: “Thou shall not bear false witness.”

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E-mail: utalk2ctalk@gmail.com

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