Sixteen Metro Manila governments—among them Caloocan, Makati, Pasig, Manila, Quezon City, Navotas and Valenzuela—have expressed their support for community pantries and declared that no business permit would be required to operate. This issue earlier concerned organizers as they feared red tape may hamper the development of similar projects.
Following security concerns that pantry pioneer Ana Patricia Non had raised, Quezon City Mayor Joy Belmonte has taken action and ordered an investigation into the red-tagging of individuals involved in such initiatives.
On April 19, the Quezon City Police Department (QCPD) and the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) shared posts that said community pantries were merely propaganda for communist groups, a baseless claim for which social media users were quick to castigate them.
Non announced via a Facebook post that the Maginhawa Community Pantry—the first of its kind in the country amid the pandemic—would be temporarily closed on April 20 as she feared for the safety of pantry volunteers and her own.
She called for Belmonte’s help, relating in the same Facebook post that she was approached by three police officers who asked her for contact information and asked to which organizations she belonged.
In response, Belmonte expressed her own support for these community initiatives and said: “The city government will therefore ensure that the organizers and beneficiaries of community pantries remain safe and unimpeded.”
The QCPD has since apologized and said in a statement: “We will never allow alleged red-tagging.”
The mayor had also spoken to Station 9 Commander Police Lt. Col. Imelda Reyes regarding Non’s safety concerns.
Meanwhile, Task Force Disiplina and barangay officials have helped keep the community pantry peaceful and orderly.
Malacañang, for its part, said that such endeavors should be left alone unless minimum health standards are not followed or compromised.
“I think the President has spoken through my office, the [Department of Local and Interior Government] has spoken,” said Harry Roque, presidential spokesperson. “And unless their concern is about health protocols not being observed, they should let these community pantries alone.”
However, he also said that it was still the anti-insurgency group’s prerogative to stop linking pantry organizers to the communist movement.
Tired of “inaction” and the “agitating” state of the nation, Non set up a bamboo cart last April 14, filled it with food and essential supplies along with a sign that read: “KUMUHA NG AYON SA PANGANGAILANGAN, MAGBIGAY AYON SA KAKAYANAN.”
This simple food stall came to be known as the Maginhawa Community Pantry, a model that spread like wildfire in a matter of days, producing variants all over Metro Manila and even extending to Luzon provinces, Bicol and Mindanao.
According to Non, the widespread success of pantries was a clear indication that government aid was just not enough. She added that community pantries would continue to exist as long as there are people in need and people who are willing to contribute.
Photo: Joy Belmonte/ FB