MANILA — Malacañang on Monday told critics to stop "politicking," as it rejected criticism that government incompetence spawned "community pantries" across the country, where private citizens mobilized to help others weather the COVID-19 crisis.
The pantries, made of make-shift shelves along streets, offer food and other necessities, with anyone free to get whatever amount they needed.
Sen. Panfilo Lacson said were "born out of desperation" and a "selfless" act of people, who "unwitting they may be, are telling government to do better.
Meanwhile, Former Vice President Jejomar Binay said the "simple" message of the community pantries is "when government is absent, we can look after each other."
"We disagree," said Palace spokesman Harry Roque, when asked to react to these remarks. "Tingin natin itong mga community pantry nagpapakita na bayanihan ang umiiral, hindi bangayan."
"Sa panahon ng matinding pandemya, sa panahon ng surge na ito, kinakailangan po talaga sama-sama tayong mga Pilipino. Kung hindi tayo magtutulungan, sino pang magtutulungan? Itigil na po muna ang pulitika, 'wag po sa panahon na nagkakaroon nga ganitong surge," he said in a press briefing.
(We think this community pantry shows that bayanihan is in effect, and not strife. During the pandemic and this surge, we need to band together. Let us stop politicking, not in the this time of surge.)
Roque said the community pantry "is a spontaneous movement amongst Filipinos" and he did not think anyone could claim to be its founder.
"It's part of our psyche to help one another kapag may mga panahon ng pangangailangan (in times of need)," he said. "I don't see that as a condemnation of government. It simply shows the best in us during the worst of times."
The government set aside P22.9 billion in aid for low income earners in Metro Manila and surrounding Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna, and Rizal provinces, which were under the toughest lockdown level for 2 weeks. The area has since shifted to the third strictest quarantine status.
Out of this fund, P4 billion has been distributed to beneficiaries, said Roque.
The Philippines has tallied 936,133 coronavirus infections, 141,089 of which were active as of Sunday.