The organizer of the pioneer community pantry in Quezon City temporarily suspended the program due to alleged red-tagging.
This prompted calls to protect similar initiatives that sprouted in other communities amid the delay in financial aid from the national government.
Community pantry organizer Ana Patricia Non announced the suspension in a Facebook post early Tuesday, citing safety reasons for the volunteers after the government associated them with the communist rebellion.
“Hindi magandang balita. Bukas po pause po muna ang #MaginhawaCommunityPantry para sa safety po namin ng mga volunteers,” Non said.
“Malungkot po dahil hindi muna maipapamahagi ang goods na inihanda namin buong maghapon dahil po sa #RedTagging na nagaganap,” she added.
Non stressed that her only intention was to help the hungry and the poor.
She also felt bad for those who will line up at the kiosk only to find out it has been suspended.
“Sigurado po maraming tao po ang pipila sa amin bukas pero kailangan po muna nila maghintay sa susunod na araw bago po ito maipamahagi. Lalo na po at nagkaproblema kanina ang ibang Community Pantry sa mga kapulisan,” Non said.
In a statement on April 20, Quezon City Mayor Joy Belmonte assured Non and other similar individuals setting up the community initiatives that the local government supports their volunteer-led programs.
Belmonte also noted that she had already met with Non and they managed to discuss her concerns about safety security.
“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,” Belmonte said.
Filipinos denounced the red-tagging and profiling of the volunteers of these bayanihan activities, saying that organizers were only filling the gap that the government failed to provide.
The phrase “community pantry” and the hashtag #protectcommunitypantries briefly trended on local Twitter on Tuesday.
“The NTF-ELCAC has no shame or conscience in red-tagging community pantries. They’re not satisfied with leaving people to die of hunger. They also have to endanger the lives of those who are making-up for this government’s lack of mercy and compassion,” one Twitter user said.
“Pati sa community pantry nangangatog tuhod netong estado diosko,” another user wrote.
“Wag naman sana umabot sa punto na wala na mag initiate ng tulong sa takot na ma-redtag,” another said.
Human rights lawyer Maria Sol Taule suggested mobilizing ordinary Filipinos to look out for suspicious individuals.
“We can mobilize nanays, tatays, tricycle drivers to look out for suspicious individuals who will try to surreptitiously take photos or harass anyone by profiling them, asking for their personal details,” Taule said.
Profiling community pantry organizers?
In her post, Non or Patreng Non bared that police officers previously asked for her personal information.
She also attached screenshots of posts from the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict and other social media posts that tagged them to the communist rebellion.
She said she had already sought help from the Quezon City government about it.
“Humihingi din po ako ng tulong kay mayor Joy Belmonte tungkol sa usapin na ito. Lalo na po ay hiningi po ng tatlong pulis ang number ko at tinatanong po kung anong organisasyon ko,” she said.
“Natatakot po ako maglakad mag-isa papunta sa Community Pantry ng alas singko ng umaga dahil po sa walang basehang paratang sa amin. Gusto ko lang po talaga makatulong at sana po ay huwag nyo masamain,” she said.
In the screenshots, the NTF-ELCAC re-shared posts that red-tagged progressive groups such as Tulong Kabataan and Kilusang Mayo Uno whose members replicated Non’s initiative in their own areas.
Other snapshots also showed allegations that these organizers were spreading communist propaganda despite having no proof of it.
Some volunteers likewise shared that members of the local police have also inquired for their personal details and took their photos.
The Department of Interior and Local Government earlier said that volunteers should secure permits to continue their community pantry-related activities.
DILG Undersecretary Martin Diño later clarified that no permits were needed. Volunteers, however, still need to coordinate with local officials for the mandated minimum health protocols.
Meanwhile, following the red-tagging allegations, the National Privacy Commission called on the Philippine National Police to probe the alleged profiling of organizers where they were asked to provide personal information such as “email address, Facebook account name, family background, among others.”
“Today, we call on again the attention of the PNP Data Protection Office to look into these reports and take appropriate measures to prevent any doings of its personnel on the ground that could potentially harm citizens and violate rights,” NPC said.
“Should there be a need to collect personal information to maintain peace and order, it must be accomplished with transparency, legitimate purpose, and proportionality,” it added.
DILG spokesperson Jonathan Malaya in a radio interview with DZMM reportedly clarified that there is no order to do a background check on community pantry organizers.
“Wala pong order ang PNP. Walang order ang DILG… Kami sa DILG, PNP, kami ay gumigitna na lang dito. Wala kaming planong panghimasukan,” he said.