A senior citizen fainted and later died while waiting in line for a community pantry launched by actress Angel Locsin that was flocked by thousands of people in Barangay Holy Spirit, Quezon City Friday morning.
Lt. Col. Jeffrey Bilaro, station commander of Holy Spirit Police Station, identified the victim as Rolando dela Cruz, 67, a resident of the same barangay. He was declared dead on arrival at a hospital. Further investigation on his death is ongoing.
Dela Cruz was among those who fell in line at the community pantry that was organized for Locsin’s 36th birthday at a commercial building on Don Matias Street. Locsin briefly led the distribution of goods to those who were lined up and went live on Facebook before noon on Friday to say that stubs were given to those availing of the provisions.
Locsin, in her Facebook post Thursday night, said the pantry would be open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. or until its supplies last.
As of 9:50 a.m. on Friday, Quezon City Task Force Disiplina head Rannie Ludovica said more people were still arriving although the line already reached the corner of Commonwealth Avenue.
“Patuloy pa ring dumarating ang mga tao…sabi po ng coordinator…kapatid (ni Angel Locsin) na good for 300 lang po ang kanilang prinepare eh, dinagsa po kasi kasi nabasa sa Facebook (More people were still coming although the coordinator, Locsin’s sister, told them that the supplies were only good for 300 people. People flocked because they learned about it on Facebook),” Ludovica said.
“Mahirap naman po na sabihin namin na hanggang 300 lang… kasi baka pag kami mag-announce, baka sabihin gawa gawa lang namin ‘yun (It’s hard for us Task Force Disiplina to tell them that the pantry could only serve 300 people, because if we do so, they would accuse us of making up a story),” he added.
Bilaro, meanwhile, said they deployed police personnel only after seeing that people were already crowding. He said they did not receive any coordination from the organizers.
“Buti na lang may barangay ambulance doon (It just so happened that there was a barangay ambulance there),” he said in a Viber message, as he called on other pantry organizers to set up priority lanes for senior citizens and persons with disabilities to prevent this from happening again.
Locsin, in her announcement, reminded the public to “make sure to follow protocols” but photos and videos on social media showed people violating guidelines on physical distancing.
Community pantries, which were inspired by Ana Patricia Non’s Maginhawa community pantry, sprouted in different parts of the country to help people tide over the crisis brought by the lingering coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.
Government critics said community pantries sprang up due to the government’s insufficient assistance to people affected by the pandemic.
“It’s a wake-up call that the government must do more to provide for the people,” Sen. Grace Poe, chairman of the Senate Public Services Committee, said.
Sen. Panfilo Lacson said community pantries were “an inspiration borne out of desperation.”