Don’t ‘censure,’ ‘intimidate’ community pantry organizers, senators say
MANILA, Philippines — Organizers of community pantries providing food for the poor affected by the pandemic should be encouraged, and not censured or intimidated, senators said on Tuesday.
“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,” Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto said in a statement.
“These have become self-policing projects by a disciplined populace. The police should, in fact, commend the organizers instead of censuring them,” he said.
Recto was reacting to the alleged red-tagging and supposed profiling of individuals, prompting the organizer of the Maginhawa community pantry, Ana Patricia Non, to suspend its operations.
But Philippines National Police chief Gen. Debold Sinas has already denied ordering the profiling of community pantry organizers.
Still, Senator Grace Poe reminded the police of its duty to protect the citizenry.
“Let’s not taint the initiatives to help stem hunger with suspicions of communist links. It puts their lives in peril, which is not the way to treat our people doing good for their countrymen,” Poe said in another statement.
“Law enforcers must, at all times, fulfill their duties of protecting the citizens, not intimidate them. Tumutulong na nga sila, tinatakot pa [They are helping out and yet they are being threatened],” she also said.
Senator Panfilo Lacson, meanwhile, wondered how a humanitarian act like the setting up of said community pantries “could be interpreted as part of overthrowing the government.”
A former police chief, Lacson said it is “ill-advised” or even “deplorable” for police officers to suspect that these community pantries were engaged in any destabilization plots without solid proof.
“I think that (red-tagging) should stop…” he said in a television interview as he urged government to allow the establishments of more community pantries.
Instead of suspecting these community pantry organizers, Senator Joel Villanueva urged government to shower these “bayanihan” projects with “PDA” or public display of affection.
“I humbly appeal to our colleagues in government to help and support these pantries instead of asking the people to stay away from these,” he said.
“May I gently remind them that in times when food is scarce and aid is sporadic, it is the worst kind of ‘social distancing advice’ that could come from a public official.”
Senators Nancy Binay and Sherwin Gatchalian also slammed earlier the reported red-tagging and profiling of the pantry organizers.
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