1st pantry now a hub: Patreng’s project keeps on giving and growing
MANILA, Philippines — What started as a bamboo cart where locals can leave essential goods or take pantry items that they need has become a drop-off point for donations.
On its Facebook page, the Maginhawa Community Pantry on Tuesday said that it was now accepting donations at the barangay hall at No. 108 Maginhawa Street, Teachers Village East in Quezon City, for a “more organized and efficient distribution” to other pantries around the area.
The decentralized pantry system will also “help the elderly, pregnant women and persons with disability” get what they need from food aid stations that are more accessible to them, the post added.
Donations are accepted every day, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., according to organizers of the pantry that was launched two weeks ago by a Quezon City resident and has since inspired hundreds of similar community projects across the country.
Interior Secretary Eduardo Año said his department would be issuing guidelines to all local governments on “how to handle community pantries” to ensure minimum health standards for COVID-19 prevention are strictly observed.
The advisory and memorandum may include a provision closing down a community pantry if health protocols are disregarded, he said.
“If [minimum health standards] are not implemented or are violated, that’s ground for stopping a community pantry [setup]. Because this could cause a surge or outbreak [of COVID-19],” Año said in an interview on Tuesday on Teleradyo.
The guidelines may also include a ban on signs containing names of politicians.
“There might be politicians who may want to ride on the [pantries’] popularity which would defeat [their] purpose,” Año said.
“The operation of community pantries should be orderly and peaceful and we do not need anyone taking credit when what’s important is we are able to help our needy countrymen,” he added.
Probe of ‘Red-taggers’ pushed
At the House of Representatives, Deputy Speaker Rufus Rodriguez filed a resolution asking the Commission on Human Rights and the National Bureau of Investigation to probe the Red-tagging of community pantry organizers.
Under House Resolution No. 1725, Rodriguez said there was a need “to look into Red-tagging activities and put a stop to [them] if [they] result in good ideas like community pantries being forced to close down.”
Ana Patricia Non, now widely praised for her inspiring project on Maginhawa Street in Quezon City, was forced to stop its services for a day last week because of security concerns, after being linked to the communist insurgency by Lt. Gen. Antonio Parlade Jr. and Lorraine Badoy, the spokespersons for the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-Elcac).
Several lawmakers have assailed Parlade and Badoy for putting the lives of community pantry organizers and volunteers at risk with their Red-tagging remarks, prompting National Security Adviser and NTF-Elcac Chair Hermogenes Esperon Jr. to issue a gag order on the two officials.
Some senators also threatened to defund the NTF-Elcac and realign its P19-billion budget for other government services following Parlade and Badoy’s remarks.
Role of barangays
In issuing the guidelines on community pantries, Año said coordination with local governments, particularly barangays, was very important.
“The [local governments] really have a big role to play because first they can determine the best venues for distribution so those who need the goods would receive them,” he said.
Año added that local governments can determine which sitios, barangays or sites have the most beneficiaries and can also provide more supplies to the community pantries from local producers to help the economy.
“[They] can maintain security [and] peace and order when beneficiaries come in droves. I don’t think the organizer can do crowd control so we need Task Force Disiplina brigades,” he said.
The “idea of private individuals and private organizations [starting community pantries] is really good, but they need to team up with the government, the local government,” Año added.
In his House resolution, Rodriguez cited several instances when Red-tagging had prompted several community pantries to stop operations.
A community pantry in Cagayan de Oro, his home district, closed down “after being Red-tagged and systematically harassed with leaflets being circulated and posted everywhere, resulting in the owner fearing for his life,” the lawmaker said.
A Muslim restaurant owner in the same city also complained that several people who introduced themselves as policemen went to her place and asked for some personal information after she put up a community pantry outside her restaurant, Rodriguez added.
The Makabayan bloc, composed of six lawmakers from Bayan Muna, Gabriela, ACT Teachers and Kabataan, earlier filed a resolution urging the House committee on human rights to investigate the harassment and profiling of community pantry organizers and volunteers. INQ]
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