The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) has condemned the red-tagging of the organizers of several community pantries that were set up to help people in need amidst the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.
It is “shameful and politicking actions of the few ideologically bent” said the CHR on those who forced a stop on the operations of a community pantry on Maginhawa Street in Quezon City.
CHR Spokesperson Jacqueline Ann de Guia said that many Filipinos have come to rely on community pantries as a “means of sustenance to provide food for themselves and their families,” especially now that people are struggling to make ends meet because of the pandemic.
But barely a week since it started, Maginhawa Community Pantry organizer Anna Patricia Non had to suspend their operations in consideration of the safety of their volunteers and herself since they have been subjected to red-tagging activities in some government social media pages.
“It is thus concerning that this initiative, as well as the other community pantries that have followed, are under the threat of profiling and surveillance by local law enforcement authorities and are subject to red-tagging across various accounts in social media,” De Guia, a lawyer, said.
“Notably, these government social media pages have shared graphics on their accounts linking the community pantry initiatives to the communist movement,” she said.
She pointed out that the CHR has even received reports that local law enforcement agents are requiring organizers of community pantries to share their personal details and answer questions regarding their affiliations.
“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,” she stressed.
On Tuesday, April 20, Justice Secretary Menardo I. Guevarra said that law enforcement agencies should leave alone persons who organized the community pantries that have sprouted around the country.
Guevarra said: “Suffice it to say that a person voluntarily doing an act of kindness and compassion toward his neighbor should be left alone.”
“It is not proper for law enforcement agents to interrogate him unless there is reason to believe that he is violating any law, ordinance, rule or regulation for the good or welfare of the community,” he explained.
The CHR has reiterated the call of National Privacy Commission Chairperson Raymund Liboro for the prudent and lawful collection of data by the Philippine National Police (PNP), and has likewise welcomed the support of Quezon City Mayor Joy G. Belmonte for the community pantries and its organizers.
“In times of uncertainty, Filipinos have come together to help one another to overcome adversity,” De Guia said.
“In 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.