MANILA - The spokesperson of the country's anti-insurgency task force denied Wednesday that authorities profiled organizers of community pantries.
The Maginhawa community pantry on Tuesday stopped its operation after Quezon City Police and the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) shared social media posts accusing community pantries of propaganda.
"We’re just checking kung ano ang ginagawa, anong sitwasyon sa community pantries na ito kasi hindi naman lahat ng community pantries ay initiated by one group or one individual," NTF-ELCAC spokesperson Lt. Gen. Antonio Parlade Jr. told ABS-CBN's Teleradyo.
(We're just checking what they're doing, what's the situation in these community pantries because not all of these are organized by one group or individual.)
"We've been checking all around the country, may community pantries na-find out na organized by the LGUs (local government units)."
(There are community pantries we found out were organized by LGUs.)
Parlade, commander of the Armed Forces' Southern Luzon Command, said the task force "checked" community pantries on its own as it was the government's mandate.
"Walang kailangan mag-utos sa'min kasi mandate 'yan ng AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines), ng mga ahensiya ng gobyerno. Kailangan i-check may clearance, kung sumusunod ba sa policies," he said.
(No one has to order us because that's the mandate of the AFP, of government agencies. We have to check if there's clearance, if they are following policies.)
"We've checked Bicol, Mindoro, so far wala naman nakitang problema (we did not see any problem)."
The task force had received messages from netizens about placards with hashtags "#StopKillingFarmers," Parlade said.
"As much as possible tumulong na lang, 'wag nang samahan ng politika, ng propaganda. Many of these pantries are doing exactly that," he said.
(As much as possible, just help people. Don't politicize it, don't include propaganda.)
For his part, Interior and Local Government Undersecretary Jonathan Malaya said all groups including leftist organizations such as Bayan Muna can set up their own community pantries without interference from government.
"The community pantry is an act of kindness. It has been a tradition and part of Filipino spirit and culture, which is called bayanihan. It is very important especially during times of disaster," he said in a separate interview on ANC's Matters of Fact.
"If Bayan or Bayan Muna or any of these left-wing groups would like to conduct their own community pantries, there would be no problem. Whatever they say during those community pantries, if they put up signs, are part of protected speech."
However, he also pointed out that it would be better not to politicize community pantries. "If you put politics, it reduces it to propaganda actions," he said.
Ana Patricia Non, organizer of the first community pantry in Maginhawa, said she would just focus on distributing goods to the public.
Non earlier said 3 policemen had asked for her contact number and asked to which organization she belonged to.
"Starting today gusto po namin sana na magfocus tayo dun sa community pantry. Mas madaming sumusuporta naman po kesa bumabatikos. Ayaw ko po ibuhos ang energy ko sa mga taong hindi nakakaintindi," she told ABS-CBN News.
(Starting today we just want to focus on the community pantry. There are more supporters than critics. I don't want to spend my energy on people who don't understand.)
"Kung may doubts pa po ang tao sa community pantry, bisita po sila sa kahit saang community pantry sa Pilipinas kasi hindi lang po dito ang umaani ng supporta, 120 na po ang community pantries sa buong Pilipinas."
(If there are still doubts, they can visit any community pantry in the country, because ours is not the only one gaining support. There are now 120 community pantries nationwide.)