MANILA — The woman who initiated a Quezon City community pantry, which spawned similar movements across the country, now expressed fear for her safety and her family following false claims that she has ties with the communists.
Community pantry initiator Ana Patricia Non on Tuesday said red-tagging also endangers the lives of the public relying on the aid.
In a press conference shared online, Non also dispelled allegations she has links to rebel groups.
“Para lang po malinaw, wala po. Tigilan na po natin ‘yung mga ganitong pambibintang kasi napaka-delikado po eh lalo na po sa panahon ngayon," Non said in a press conference.
(Just to be clear, I have no connections. Let's stop such accusations because they are very dangerous, especially these days.)
“Wala po akong links sa Communist Party [of the Philippines] and napaka … pasensya na po pero ang dumi po ng question na ‘yan kasi po last thing na kailangan ko pong i-explain sa mga tao kung ano ba ako, sino ba ako. Kasi, malinaw ang intensyon ko gusto ko lang na may mai-set-up na community pantry and makakain ‘yung mga tao … may maipantawid gutom,” Non said in response to a reporter's question.
(Honestly, I don't have any links to the Communist Party [of the Philippines] and I'm very sorry but that question is malicious because it's the last thing I need to explain to people what I am, who am I. Because, my intention is clear, I just want a community pantry to be set up and people can eat… something to alleviate hunger.)
The community pantry initiator said she also has no personal agenda at that her sole purpose is to help the people in need, especially during the pandemic. On Tuesday, she temporarily closed the Maginhawa community pantry despite pleas from hungry community members, due to security risks.
Non said many community pantries also saw harassment from authorities as they are members of progressive groups.
She also lamented red-tagging has discredited the efforts of community pantries and their bayanihan spirit.
"Dinidiscredit din po kasi kapag nire-redtag ‘yung community effort ‘yung tulong ng mga tao, ng mag volunteers. Hindi lang po basta ako ‘yung dinidiscredit niyo kundi ‘yung buong community pantry na nasa buong Pilipinas."
(It also discredits because when the community effort is red-tagged, the help of the people, of the volunteers. It's not just me you discredit but the entire community pantry in the whole Philippines.)
As of posting, there are around 200 community pantries all over the country, mostly set up by private or religious groups.
“Kung gusto po nilang itigil ‘yung community pantry … kung gusto na lang po nilang ipagpatuloy ‘yung red-tagging, sige po gawin niyo pero kaya niyo po bang pakainin at bigyan ng sapat na tulong ‘yung mga taong ‘to?" the community pantry initiator said.
(If they want to stop the community pantry … if they just want to continue the red-tagging, go ahead and do it but can you feed and give enough help to these people?)
"Kasi po kung hindi po kayo tutulong wala po kayong iaambag sa mga tao, hindi niyo po sila kikilalanin mas maganda pong huwag na lang po tayong magsalita ng mga ganitong bagay kasi po ilang pamilya po ‘yung naaapektuhan, hindi po ako eh,” she added.
(Because if you will not help, you can’t contribute to the people, you won't get to know them, it's better that we don't talk about such things because some families are affected.)
Non said her being a graduate of the University of the Philippines could have been the basis of her critics.
“Pwede rin kasi siyang factor na tinitingnan nila na taga-UP ka, aktibista ka nung college, nag-council ka. Totoo po ‘yun na nag-council po ako nung college and pagkatapos po nun nag-trabaho na po ako sa iba’t ibang companies,” Non said.
(It can also be a factor that they consider that you are from UP, you were an activist in college, you were a councilor. It’s true that I was on a council in college and after that, I worked for various companies.)
“So pwede naman po ‘yun pero gusto ko rin pong ilinaw sa mga tao na kung hindi ko po natutunan ‘yung ganitong foundation sa UP and sa iba’t ibang organization ko … like mga organizing sa mga events, concerts kung ‘di ko po natutunan ‘yun baka ‘di ko pa na-set-up ‘yung community pantry,” she added.
(So that's okay but I also want to make it clear to people that if I haven't learned this kind of foundation at UP and in my various organizations… like organizing events, concerts if I haven't learned Maybe I haven't set up the community pantry yet.)
The fine arts graduate said that her experiences in college helped her to be compassionate.
“Malaki pong bagay ‘yung natutunan ko sa UP at sa communities po talaga kasi doon po talaga ‘yung foundation, ‘yung pakikibisita sa mga farmers, kahit saglit lang, kung paano kumausap sa mga tao kung paano ‘yung dapat simple ka lang, kinakamusta mo sila, pinakikinggan mo sila," she said.
(I learned a lot at UP and in the communities because the foundation is really there, visiting farmers, even for a moment, how to talk to people how to be simple, how are you them, you listen to them.)
Interior Secretary Eduardo Año earlier said that he has not ordered the Philippine National Police to look into community pantries.
The Quezon City Police District (QCPD) and the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict has also shared social media posts accusing community pantries of propaganda.
Meanwhile, in a statement, Quezon City Mayor Joy Belmonte said she has asked QCPD District Director Brig. Gen. Antonio Yarra to investigate Non's reported "apprehensions and earlier experiences."
Video courtesy of Community Pantry PH