Persons who set up community pantries to help those in need do not violate any laws, the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) declared on Wednesday, April 21.
IBP President Domingo Egon Q. Cayosa said: “No law is violated when one feeds the hungry and helps the needy survive in this pandemic.”
The IBP, the nationally recognized organization of lawyers, reacted to reports that community pantry organizers have been red-tagged and harassed by law enforcement officers, particularly the police.
President Duterte, through the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG), has said that unless the issue is health protocols, pantry organizers should be left alone.
The President’s pronouncement was echoed by Justice Secretary Menardo I. Guevarra. “Suffice it to say that a person voluntarily doing an act of kindness and compassion toward his neighbor should be left alone,” he said.
“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,” Guevarra stressed.
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 of the operations of a community pantry on Maginhawa Street in Quezon City.
The Public Attorneys Office (PAO) has declared it will provide legal assistance to pantry organizers who are red-tagged or harassed by law enforcement operatives.
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 for those in need.
However, Ana Patricia Non, the organizer, posted on Facebook that their volunteers have been forced to stop distributing goods and accepting donations after they were red-tagged.
Aside from this, other community pantries also reported similar instances of harassment from law enforcement.