Lorenzana, Sobejana back community pantries, offer help
MANILA, Philippines—Top Philippine defense and military officials have expressed support for the highly-popular community pantries and even offered help following a backlash on red-tagging by some counterinsurgency task force officials against people behind the pantries.
“Kindness is everyone’s color,” said Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana in a statement on Thursday (April 22). “Regardless of beliefs, as long as the desire to help is sincere, we will support it,” Lorenzana said.
He said the defense department was ready to help if asked to do so by local government units in areas where the pantries have sprouted to provide free food to people suffering from the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Lorenzana said the military could also send mobile kitchens when needed.
Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief Gen. Cirilito Sobejana said he was thinking of convincing soldiers to donate a day’s worth of their subsistence allowances to raise funds for the community pantries, which have mushroomed nationwide.
“I should say we are in turmoil with COVID-19, with what is happening in the West Philippine Sea, with our internal security problem,” Sobejana said. “We have many problems,” he said in Filipino.
“Now with COVID-19, some sectors of our society are locked down, they could not earn, that’s why this gesture of feeding our less fortunate brothers is a humanitarian action which your armed forces, being the protector of the people, is supporting,” Sobejana said.
The expression of support comes after some officials of the counterinsurgency National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-Elcac), which had been given a P19 billion budget in 2021, claimed without evidence that some community pantry organizers had ties with communist guerrillas.
Sobejana said he has called the attention of Lt. Gen. Antonio Parlade, spokesperson of the NTF-Elcac, on his controversial remarks against the people behind the community pantries.
“I called the attention of General Parlade, I invited him,” said Sobejana.
“I reiterated to him my guidance that is be to be very deliberate and exercise due diligence in our all actions, may it be by words or in deeds,” he said. The two are classmates at the Philippine Military Academy (Hinirang Class of 1987).
Sobejana, however, declined to comment directly on Parlade’s allegations.
Parlade had alleged that leftist groups are taking advantage of the community pantries to paint a bad image of the Duterte administration.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.