How to Start a Community Pantry, According to the DILG

From red tag to red tape.

community pantry
PHOTO BY Mike Rodriguez ILLUSTRATION War Espejo

Community Pantry

(SPOT.ph) Twenty-six-year-old Patricia Non started a movement that was replicated in various barangays all over the Philippines: a community pantry that's ready to accept donations and give away free food and essentials to those in need. Setting up one is easy, you just need to put a cart of sorts in a foot-traffic heavy area, provide pantry staples, and trust on the goodness of people to drop off supplies and take only what they need. But Department of the Interior and Local Government Undersecretary Martin Diño now also wants you to secure a permit from your barangay or mayor's office before putting up a community pantry.

In an interview with ANC on April 20, Karen Davila asked Diño: "Hindi siya nagbebenta a, ang community pantry para kang namimigay lang. Di ba? Libre 'yun e. Do they need a permit? Yes or no?"

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"I think now a, they need a permit. From the local, from the mayor or the barangay. Nung una, paisa-isa lang 'yan. Ngayon, dahil ibinroadcast na ng ating malalaking television network itong napaka-noble itong inimpisuhan dito sa Maginhawa, dinumog na ng mga tao. Ibig sabihin hindi na ma-control, wala nang control. At pati 'yong protocol ngayon, e na-violate na. 'Yon lang naman ang iniingatan natin, wag ma-violate ang protocol. Instead na nagbibigay ka ng pagkain, baka mamaya 'yan pa ang mag-trigger para magkahawa-hawa," the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) explained.

But in a later interview with Teleradyo on the same day, DILG Undersecretary Jonathan Malaya said, "It will be counterproductive sa panahon ng pandemya kung saan kailangan nating magtulungan na mayroong galaw para ipatigil ito," citing Diño's answer that community pantry organizers must secure a barangay permit. "Sabi namin sa barangay, huwag ninyong i-require kumuha ng permit. Hayaan niyo iyan ...kapag lumapit sa inyo, at humingi ng tulong, doon lang kayo lalapit," Malaya added.

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On Tuesday morning, the Maginhawa Community Pantry had to stop operations after organizer Patricia Non revealed incidents of red-tagging. According to her post, local police have been hounding her and asking about her involvement in leftist organizations; official Facebook pages run by the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict and the Quezon City Police District are claiming that communty pantries are being used to recruit members for the New People’s Army. People who have been lining up since 3 a.m. hoping to get some food were asked to go home.

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