Politicizing the pantries

"‘We’re just checking,’ Parlade said"


It’s a shame that a truly noble deed such as setting up a community pantry borne of a Quezon City resident’s selfless motive has been subjected to politics. 

Her little gesture of compassion that started with a small bamboo table stacked with a few food items and toiletries for giveaway to neighbors in need has inspired other 400 community pantries in other parts of the country.  

Hundreds of poor families have benefited from the free food brought to the table by anonymous donors.  

Some neighborhoods are lucky to have some good-hearted residents who could not sit idle while knowing some of their kapitbahay are practically dying of hunger. 

The government social amelioration cash aid of P1,000 for individuals and P4,000 for families of four or more were simply not enough to alleviate the plight of those who lost livelihood during the recent lockdown.  

In fact, millions have yet to receive the measly cash aid as the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), the local government units (LGUs) and barangays try to reconcile their anomalous list of recipients. 

Meantime, community pantries have mushroomed having rekindled the genuine Filipino spirit of bayanihan.

Unfortunately, some of these community pantries are allegedly being used by communist elements to espouse their hidden agenda of propaganda and to overthrow the government, according to the military.  

The National Task Force to End Community Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) has conducted background checks on community pantry organizers and linked them to the communist National Democratic Front (NDF). 

I’m not surprised this development has drawn wide denunciation from netizens in the social media, describing the military paranoid  pronouncements as “ridiculous and idiotic.”   

NTF-ELCAC spokesperson Lt. Gen. Antonio Parlade Jr. pointed out it is the mandate of the Armed Forces to check if the community pantries have clearances and are compliant to policies.  “We’re just checking,” he said.

It is indeed sad that such an innocent and Christian-like activity as community pantry is being subjected to red-tagging, as known leftist groups like the Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) have set up their own community pantries.  

To claim that it is “anti-government” for anonymous donors to give out a few food items for the benefit of anonymous recipients is simply far-fetched.  

I agree with DILG Usec. Jonathan Malaya that community pantries are nothing but “an act of kindness” and genuine bayanihan spirit among Filipinos. 

Ana Patricia Non, who started the community pantry on Maginhawa Street, Teachers Village, Diliman, Quezon City, confirmed three policemen questioned her about her affiliation. 

The 26-year-old trader denied being a member of any communist group and stressed that the community pantry is but a small way of helping people in need, particularly those displaced workers during the NCR-Plus Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ). 

Non and several volunteers thanked Quezon City Mayor Joy Belmonte and the local barangay for their support, including traffic management and additional donations of face masks and face shields. 

I’m glad that Belmonte and Manila Mayor Isko Moreno support the operations of the community pantries and announced that such civic activities do not require “permits” from the LGU, especially during these difficult times.

The pandemic that devastated the economy and the failure of the national government agencies to provide sufficient assistance certainly reduced millions of Filipinos to paupers and beggars. 

Thank God, in my over 30 years of extending public assistance, I never had to secure a “permit” nor have been subjected to “red-tagging.”   

I fear the day when my nice neighbor hands me a bowl of pinakbet and I have to suspect her as being a “communist” with a hidden agenda. Boo!

Topics: Erwin Tulfo , community pantries , National Task Force to End Community Armed Conflict , NTF-ELCAC , Lt. Gen. Antonio Parlade Jr. , Maginhawa Street , Teachers Village , Diliman , Quezon City , Mayor Joy Belmonte
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