Maginhawa community pantry halts operations due to 'red-tagging'

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, April 20) — The Maginhawa community pantry will temporarily stop its operations on Tuesday due to alleged red-tagging activities threatening the safety of its volunteers.

In a briefing on Tuesday, lead organizer Patricia Non said she feared for her safety when police officers started asking for her affiliation after days of manning the area. She also raised concern on the "alarming" social media post of the Quezon City Police District linking them and other community pantries to rebel groups.

"Ang pinakakinalungkot ko sa nangyari, pinost po ng QCPD sa offcial page na ang community pantry ay parang propaganda ng Communist Party," she said.

[Translation: What really saddened me was the QCPD's post in its official page which suggested that community pantries are being used as propaganda by the Communist Party.]

"Nalungkot ako kasi magkakasama tayo, ilang araw tayong nagtutulungan. Pwede naman akong kausapin, available naman po ako. Official page po 'yun at may ganoong kinakalat lalo na't kaya namang pag-usapan," she added.

[Translation: I was disappointed because we were there, and we have been showing unity the past days. They could have talked to me, I'm available. It was their official page and that post was maliciously shared when it could have been personally discussed.]

Non also bared that her team also had to repeatedly ask the police to refrain from bringing rifles to dispel fear among residents who were simply lining up in the area to get some goods.

Non denied being affiliated to any communist groups. She first announced in her Facebook post that they had to pause their Tuesday operations to address such false claims, noting that other community pantries are also being linked to the Communist Party of the Philippines, its armed wing, the New People's Army, and the communist umbrella organization National Democratic Front.

The QCPD and the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflictshared a post from anti-communist group Peace Philippines which compiled photos of various community pantries and warned against those which could be using these initiatives for supposed recruitment of potential members. The shared post read:

"Ang Community Pantry ay para sa bayan, huwag gamitin para sa sariling kapakanan! Ang 'Tulong Kabataan' ay isang organisasyon na ginawa ng CPP-NPA-NDF para makakuha ng pondo at makapagrecruit ng mga kabataan at mamamayan."

[Translation: A community pantry is for the people, do not use it for your own good. Tulong Kabataan is an organization created by CPP-NPA-NDF to get funds and to recruit youth and other individuals.]

Tulong Kabataan Network is a youth group which recently partnered with some other organizations including Kabataan Party-list to put up its own community pantry in Kalayaan Ave., Quezon City.

Another post, which photoshopped the Maginhawa community pantry next to a photo of an armed rebel, also claimed that "community pantries are supported and advocated by" progressive groups Kilusang Mayo Uno and Piston which the NTF-ELCAC classified as supposed "communist terrorist organizations."

"Natatakot po ako maglakad mag-isa papunta sa community pantry ng alas singko ng umaga dahil po sa walang basehang paratang sa amin. Gusto ko lang po talaga makatulong at sana po ay huwag niyo masamain," Non said.

[Translation: I'm scared to walk to the community pantry at 5 in the morning because of these baseless claims against us. I just wanted to help so please don't take this the wrong way.]

At around 6am on Tuesday, some residents were still seen lining up, hoping to get goods from the Maginhawa Community Pantry despite the advisory. Most of them were reported to have been waiting since 3am. They were eventually asked to vacate the area and return on Wednesday.

Herbie Docena, an organizer of a community pantry in Matatag Street, called for more volunteers who could help them out as those who waited in line at the Maginhawa community pantry were reportedly asked to go to them instead. Those who are interested to help may visit this link for more details.

Non said the Maginhawa community pantry will resume its operations on Wednesday, once they can ensure the safety of volunteers. She will also hold a dialogue with Quezon City Mayor Joy Belmonte to address issues and suggestions to improve operations.

Belmonte said she will also meet with Station 9 Commander Police LtCol, Imelda Reyes, under which jurisdiction Maginhawa falls, to further discuss Non’s security concerns.

RELATED: Authorities deny profiling of community pantry organizers, need for barangay permit

The Maginhawa community pantry opened a week ago. Other makeshift community pantries inside and outside Metro Manila have also popped up in the past days and replicated its operations, allowing others to take or drop off basic items such as canned goods, rice and vegetables.

READ: 'Beyond charity': How the Maginhawa community pantry started it all