President Duterte wants community pantries to continue operating as they help Filipinos who are in need during these very challenging times, Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said on Tuesday, April 20.
In his virtual press briefing, the Palace official stressed that the community pantries with their give-what-you-can and take-what-you-need approach “exemplify the best of the Filipino character in times of challenges.”
He said that the President, as well as the Department of Local Government (DILG), are both encouraging the organizers of the community pantries to continue what they are doing.
“Itong mga (These) community pantries exemplify the best. Sinusugan din po ni DILG Secretary Año na nagsalita ngayon lamang na sinasabi na wala po siyang kautusan sa kapulisan na maghimasok sa operasyon ng mga (DILG Secretary Año also echoed that and said he has no order to the police to interfere in the operations of the) community pantries,” Roque added.
The spokesman called the community pantry a show of bayanihan (community spirit), but stressed that the only time the police can meddle into the operations of these pantries is to ensure that the minimum health standards such as social distancing are being followed.
“Bayanihan, hindi bangayan. At iyan po ay talaga naman pong pinupuri ng ating presidente (Unity, and not conflict. Our President is all praises for it),” Roque said.
On Tuesday, Ana Patricia Non, the proponent of the first community pantry in Maginhawa Street in Diliman, Quezon City, said she will be closing the pantry because she and the other volunteers are being red-tagged.
Along with her Facebook post explaining why she had to close the pantry, she published screen caps of posts by several individuals claiming that the community pantry was the work of leftist groups like PISTON and Kabataan party-list.
Even the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) reposted some of the allegations.
When asked if the NTF-ELCAC takes as gospel truth the Facebook posts of other social media users, Roque said that question is for the task force to answer.
Since Non established the community pantry, others followed suit. There are now similar pantries around Metro Manila, as well as in other nearby provinces.
The move, Non said, was to help the needy amid the coronavirus pandemic that has since put many parts of the country under strict lockdowns, forcing people out of livelihoods.