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Politics, red-tagging and community pantries

It started as a modest but commendable project by a Filipino who wanted to help her less fortunate countrymen during these dangerous times of Covid-19. By the time her project made it to the news and attracted public attention to it, politics entered the picture and it now threatens to ruin the whole undertaking.

Ana Patricia Non, a kindhearted resident of a village near the University of the Philippines in Diliman, established a “community pantry” along Maginhawa Street, a relatively busy road in the area.

Her community pantry was a makeshift facility where she and some of her friends placed several basic commodities (canned food, milk, eggs, vegetables, etc.) for the marginalized residents of the area to get and bring home, absolutely free.

The project was a give-and-take affair, with donors leaving some produce and the needy getting some of what had been donated. It operated under a simple rule: Give what you can willingly spare, and take only what you really need.

After the project made it to the news, food donations started coming in, as the line of beneficiaries got longer. Soon, other similar “community pantries” operated by similarly kind-hearted citizens began sprouting in the metropolis.

Instead of lauding the community pantries, several senators saw them as a collective opportunity to criticize the government, particularly the agency assigned to manage the national effort to deal with the coronavirus pandemic.

Senators Panfilo Lacson and Grace Poe-Llamanzares, known for their pessimistic attitude against the administration of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte, declared on national television that the existence of the community pantries is an indication of the ineptitude of the government in handling the economic woes of marginalized Filipinos.

There is no word if the two senators, who are obviously eyeing higher elective office in next year’s election, even bothered to donate food items to the community pantries.

As the lines leading to these community pantries got longer every day, the attention of the health authorities was invited to possible breaches of quarantine protocols among those waiting in line. In response, local law enforcers and some military personnel made themselves visible near the community pantries to keep quarantine restrictions in place.

As expected, the presence of government operatives at the community pantries enticed members of left-leaning organizations to go to the community pantries and provoke anti-government sentiment among the people in line. There were reports that these radical groups were recruiting communist cadres from those lining up at the community pantries.

These radicals even had the temerity to try to make it appear in the TV news that their left-leaning groups inspired the proliferation of the community pantries.

The presence of left-leaning organizations in the community pantries prompted personnel from the National Task Force to End the Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) to monitor the community pantries alleged to have been infiltrated by communist cadres. Naturally, some profiling of certain people took place along the way.

In turn, the presence of the NTF-ELCAC in the community pantries gave the leftist organizations a convenient excuse to condemn it. As expected, the radicals denounced the NTF-ELCAC in the TV news using the typical anti-government statements they are known for.

Communist sympathizers in the House of Representatives of Congress quickly sided with the radicals and sweepingly concluded that the NTF-ELCAC was red-tagging everyone involved in the community pantries.

Atty. Domingo Egon Cayosa, the publicity-seeking president of the highly politicized Integrated Bar of the Philippines, arranged to get himself interviewed on TV. Speaking on national TV, Cayosa said people lining up in the community pantries should not allow themselves to be profiled by anybody.

Cayosa has been repeatedly criticized in this newspaper for his continuing failure to live up to what is expected of him as the president of the national association of members of the legal profession. His wife has also been criticized in another newspaper for trying to get herself appointed to the judiciary.

Despite this ongoing controversy, Non said she intends to continue with her community pantry. That’s certainly welcome news during a pandemic that is bound to be around for at least the next two years.

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Credit belongs to : www.tribune.net.ph

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