Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque dismissed statements claiming that the rise of community pantries shows government incompetence during a time of great public need, and said people should just stop politicizing the issue.
“That is a showcase of the best in the Filipino character. Yan ay patunay na buhay ang ating bayanihan at tayo’y magtutulungan sa panahon ng pangangailangan,” Roque said during today’s televised press briefing.
Over the past few days, community pantries have sprouted in different places in the country after it started in Maginhawa Street, Quezon City, where people donate foodstuff, alcohol, masks, and other essential supplies that others in need can take for free. The initiative is typified by its tagline, “Magbigay ayon sa kakayahan. Kumuha batay sa pangangailangan.” Now, similar efforts have been replicated in various parts of Luzon and even in Mindanao.
For some, the growing number of community pantries shows the failure of the government to help Filipinos hobbled by the growing economic crisis due to the pandemic.
Senator Panfilo Lacson said the movement is a message for the government “to do better.”
“Community food pantry is an inspiration born out of desperation. It is a selfless act of people, unwitting they may be, are telling the government to do better,” Lacon said in a tweet.
Former Vice President Jejomar Binay said that “the message behind the rise of community pantries is simple: when government is absent, we can look after each other.”
“When the situation seems hopeless, we can lift each other’s spirit. Magtulungan, magtiwala sa isa’t-isa, at manalig sa Maykapal,” Binay said in a tweet.
The message behind the rise of community pantries is simple: when government is absent, we can look after each other. When the situation seems hopeless, we can lift each other’s spirit. Magtulungan, magtiwala sa isa’t-isa, at manalig sa Maykapal.— Jejomar C. Binay (@JojoCBinay) April 18, 2021
Roque, however, disagreed with the assessment that the growth of community pantries is an indictment on the competence, or lack thereof, of the government to extend help.
“We disagree. This shows na bayanihan ang umiiral, hindi bangayan,” said Roque.
“Tigil na po muna ang pulitika, yan po ang pakiusap natin, wag po sa panahon ngayon na may ganitong surge, bayanihan muna, wag bangayan,” Roque added.
Roque said that the national government has been extending help to Filipinos affected by the recently imposed lockdown measures through the P1,000 aid allocation disbursed by the local government. The distribution, however, has been beset by delays, with the Department of Social Welfare and Development saying last week that less than 10% of the total has been distributed so far.
Roque said today that out of the P23 billion allocated for the cash aid, only P4 billion have been distributed so far to the beneficiaries.
“Paumanhin po dahil may kabagalan,” Roque said.
As of Sunday, the country has 141,089 active cases of COVID-19 with 15,960 casualties to date. There have also been 779,084 recoveries and 936,133 total cases.
(Thumbnail and banner photo by KJ Rosales, the Philippine Star)