CHR: Profiling community pantry organizers an ‘abuse of police power’
MANILA, Philippines — The act of collecting data and profiling organizers of community pantries across the country is not only a breach of privacy but also “an overreach and abuse of police power,” the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) said Tuesday.
CHR spokesperson Jacqueline de Guia said they are aware of the move taken by Maginhawa community pantry organizer Ana Patricia Non, who suspended the pantry’s operations after being red-tagged or linked to communist groups.
She also disclosed receiving reports about police officers asking organizers of other pantries in Metro Manila to fill up an information sheet while quizzing them about their supposed affiliations and organizations.
“In this context, we remind the government, particularly local law enforcement officers, that collecting data, including the affiliation of community pantry organizers, is an encroachment upon the right to privacy of citizens and represents yet again an overreach and abuse of police power bereft of any statutory or legal basis,” De Guia said in a statement.
“We echo the statement of National Privacy Commission Chairperson Raymund Liboro in calling for the prudent and lawful collection of data by the Philippine National Police,” she added.
De Guia described the community pantry as an admirable project because it shows the people’s yearning to solve the COVID-19 pandemic’s adverse effects — and the politicking of various initiatives may have a negative effect on others who are planning to set up their own projects that aim to help those in need.
“In times of uncertainty, Filipinos have come together to help one another to overcome adversity. The community pantry is an example of the exemplary spirit of bayanihan to make up for the gaps of government action in addressing the long-term adverse effects of the pandemic,” she stressed.
“The shameful and politicking actions of the few ideologically bent, however, has dimmed the hopes of many that have come to see the community pantries as means of sustenance to provide food for themselves and their families,” she added.
On Monday, netizens were outraged over photos showing police officers allegedly trying to get personal information from community pantry organizers, including a picture of a document that pantry organizers must supposedly fill out.
But Manila Police District (MPD) Director Brig. Gen. Leo Francisco said that he had no order to profile the pantry organizers, as the fielding of police officers was only to ensure peace and order in the area and to enforce health protocols in line with the COVID-19 pandemic.
Earlier, Non said she fears over her and her volunteers’ safety after certain authorities red-tagged them and other community pantry organizers. She appealed for help from Quezon City Mayor Joy Belmonte, who consequently asked the Quezon City Police District to explain the profiling and red-tagging allegations.
CHR said Belmonte’s statement on the issue is a welcome development.
“Notably, these government social media pages have shared graphics on their accounts linking the community pantry initiatives to the communist movement,” De Guia said.
“Furthermore, the Commission welcomes the statement of Quezon City Mayor Belmonte assuring support for the community pantry and the safety of the organizers,” she also said.
“It the midst of despair, let not the actions of the few prevail. We must continue efforts to build trust between one another. In the end, let trust and peace among our communities prevail as we weather this pandemic,” she added.
Metro Manila and other adjacent provinces were placed under an enhanced community quarantine in late March as the area saw a rise in COVID-19 cases.
After two weeks, the National Capital Region bubble which also includes Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna, and Rizal was downgraded to a modified ECQ (MECQ), although cases remain high.
However, the strict lockdowns have made a dent in the income of families whose members are unable to go outside and work. As many families struggle to put food on the table due to the two-week ECQ, community pantries sprouted nationwide since last week.
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