Community pantries do not need to secure any permission from local government units (LGUs) since they are merely acts of “pure volunteerism”, Senator Sherwin Gatchalian said.
Gatchalian, who was a former Valenzuela City mayor, also questioned a pronouncement from a Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) official that organizers of community pantries must secure permits from local governments before they start handing out donated food and goods to pandemic-hit Filipinos.
“I don’t even understand the permits. I was a mayor before and this type of micro volunteerism, does not need any permit,” he said in an interview with CNN Philippines Tuesday night, April 20.
“First of all, it doesn’t make money so you don’t need a permit. You only get permit if it’s for profit. But this is pure volunteerism. It’s out in their backyard so it’s not as if their setting up a store to help one another,” he explained.
“So in short, let’s leave the private sector alone, they’re doing their help,” Gatchalian told officials.
Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto also pointed out that that there is no law in the Philippines that mandates such activities to secure permits.
“Community pantries require no state franchise, nor government permit, nor police clearance. The business of helping you neighbor, as God commanded, requires no business permit from man,” he also said on Tuesday.
Gatchalian also lamented the red-tagging and profiling of community pantry organizers, agreeing that the move will discourage and sow fear among volunteers and donors.
He said his constituents who have started community pantries were also approached by police officers and asked about their personal details.
“Of course the police right now they’re all wearing their outdoor camouflage gear and it doesn’t send a good signal. I was actually quite surprised that the police even went to them. This is just one or two tables. We’re not talking about the whole store of donated goods. This is just a very small donation,” he said.
“My point here is the government should back off. They should stay off this community pantries and encourage more of this to sprout in our cities,” Gatchalian stressed.
“The last thing we want is to discourage people from doing so,” he added.
DILG Undersecretary Martin Diño said in television interview on Tuesday that he thinks community pantries must get permits from local or village executives.
He later retracted his statement, after his superior, DILG Secretary Eduardo Año, denied such a requirement. On Wednesday, he again claimed that he was only misquoted by media.