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Senators to police, NTF-ELCAC: Stop red-tagging and harassment, leave community pantries alone

By Tanya Lara Published Apr 20, 2021 4:41 pm Updated Apr 20, 2021 4:44 pm

Here we go again. Something good and pure comes out of communities and the police and military step in to ruin it.

This is the overwhelming sentiment expressed online by people frustrated over the red-tagging of organizers of community pantries and the food charities being branded as communist.

Originated by Ana Patricia Non on Maginhawa St. in Quezon City, the community pantry has seen people donating food according to their capacity and people taking food according to their needs.

Non last night posted on Facebook that she was temporarily closing the Maginhawa Community Pantry for fear of her own and her staff’s personal information being sought by the police.

Community pantry in barangay Corregidor, General Trias, Cavite.  Photo by Russell Awayan/Philippine Star

The Maginhawa Community Pantry was serving the communities of barangays Krus na Ligas, San Vicente, Sikatuna, UP Village, Teachers Village and Area 17 in QC prior to closing.

On Monday, there was reporting of similar police incidents in other community pantries around Metro Manila—law enforcers demanding that organizers reveal their personal information and affiliations.

The profiling of organizers must stop. It puts people’s lives in danger, knowing how notorious some police, military officers, and personnel are in red-tagging progressives and now civic-minded citizens.

In a joint statement released to media today, Senators Nancy Binay, Leila de Lima, Frank Drilon, Sherwin Gatchalian, Risa Hontiveros, Kiko Pangilinan, Grace Poe and Ralph Recto urged the law enforcement leadership to investigate the profiling and red-tagging of community pantries’ organizers in various parts of the country, and instead hold a dialogue with them.

Amid people’s anger over the red-tagging of community pantry organizers, the senators also condemned the posts of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) on social media.

“The profiling of organizers must stop. It puts people’s lives in danger, knowing how notorious some police, military officers, and personnel are in red-tagging progressives and now civic-minded citizens who only want to do good for their fellow men and women,” they said. “Bakit hindi tanungin ng mga pulis ang kanilang pamilya at kamag-anak kung ano ba talaga ang pakay ng mga community pantry na ito? Malamang, marami silang kakilala na nakipila rin dito at naramdaman ang kabutihan ng kanilang kapwa Pilipino.”

Hunger is the problem, not the pantries

Community pantry at P. Noval St., Manila.   Photo by Kriz-John Rosales/Philippine Star 

The senators stressed that “hunger is the problem and these relief efforts by private citizens should be encouraged.”

The harassment and intimidation, they added, “exacerbate the hunger and hardships of our citizens. We condemn these acts. Hunger is the problem, which these relief efforts directly address. Imbes na pahirapan, pagbawalan, at ipasarado, tulungan na lang dapat ng PNP ang mga local government units (LGUs) na siguraduhing napapatupad ang minimum health protocols sa mga community pantries.”

“These community pantries have offered a venue for showing the true bayanihan spirit amid the hunger and poverty in this time of the pandemic. It is deplorable to paint this initiative with suspicions of communist links.”

Maginhawa Community Pantry, which started this charitable movement.  Photo by Boy Santos/Philippine Star

The senators said they support the call of Non’s family for a dialogue between the organizers of the community pantries and government authorities on this bayanihan initiative. They said they are standing by the organizers of community pantries nationwide and encouraged them to continue their efforts that demonstrate active citizenship and participation. “We see you. We all know this is a community effort. We celebrate your energies and we stand with you all. We will always protect and uphold our fundamental rights, especially those toward a functioning and participative democracy.”

In a separate statement, Senate President Ralph G. Recto said “the only thing red in the community pantries are the ripe tomatoes. Those who see red in these bayanihan projects should have their hearts examined. Community pantries need more food bags, not red tags, nor red tape. Let them bloom wherever they sprout, regardless of who planted them. Bureaucracy has no business throwing a shade over this pure expression of people’s power.

Intramuros community pantry.  Photo from Intramuros Administration 

“Community pantries require no state franchise, nor government permit, nor police clearance. The business of helping your neighbor, as God commanded, requires no business permit from man. These have become self-policing projects by a disciplined populace. The police should, in fact, commend the organizers instead of censuring them. As the good mayor of Quezon City (Joy Belmonte) has said, “In these difficult times, let us allow kindness and selflessness to prevail.”

QC Mayor Belmonte has released a statement expressing her support for Ana Patricia Non and community pantries.

“I would like to personally assure Ms. Ana Patricia Non and other like-minded individuals that the local government of Quezon City fully supports Community Pantries. Indeed, these initiatives highlight the bayanihan spirit inherent in our QCitizens. The city government will therefore ensure that the organizers and beneficiaries of Community Pantries remain safe and unimpeded,” Belmonte said.

 Banner photos by Boy Santos and Kriz-John Rosales of the Philippine Star