Law enforcement authorities should leave alone persons who set up community pantries that have sprouted across the country, Department of Justice (DOJ) Secretary Menardo I. Guevarra said on Tuesday, April 20.
“Suffice it to say that a person voluntarily doing an act of kindness and compassion toward his neighbor should be left alone,” Guevarra said amidst reports that police officers have been questioning and profiling community pantry organizers.
“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.
He advised pantry organizers not to fill out any forms handed to them by police officers.
“Organizers of community pantries have no legal duty nor are under any compulsion to fill out any forms, as these are not considered business, much less illegal activities,” Guevarra stressed.
At the same time, he said pantry organizers need not seek the presence of lawyers should they get approached by law enforcement authorities.
The Maginhawa Community Pantry in Quezon City has inspired others to come up with their own community pantries where people can donate and share their food to those in need.
However, Ana Patricia Non, the organizer of the Maginhawa Community Pantry, posted on Facebook that their volunteers have been forced to stop distributing goods and accepting donations after they were red-tagged.
Also, other community pantry organizers have reported similar instances of harassment from law enforcement.
A community pantry organizer in Manila posted on Facebook of being questioned by local policemen and told to fill out a form which included the group or organization she was affiliated with.
Another organizer also revealed on Facebook of getting a visit from policemen who asked why the community pantry was put up and was also asked to fill out a form.
A community pantry along Matatag Street in Barangay Central in Quezon City has been ordered to stop its operation by barangay officials.