Cagayan de Oro community pantry closes due to red-tagging

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Courtesy: Kauswagan Community Pantry

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, April 21) — Two days after its launch, the Kauswagan Community Pantry in Cagayan de Oro City is now closing "indefinitely" due to the red-tagging of its main organizer.

"Thank you to all the kind hearts who keep sending help and support. Please support the rest of the Community Pantry initiatives," pantry organizers said on Facebook Wednesday, adding they will "reallocate" donated funds to other community pantries.

Maayong Adlaw! Unfortunately, due to some red-tagging and harassment incidents, we are closing our pantry...

Posted by Kauswagan Community Pantry on Tuesday, April 20, 2021

The Kauswagan Community Pantry was the brainchild of University of the Philippines Diliman lecturer Rene Principe, who said the pantry was initially set up as a family effort to help locals, including senior citizens and tricycle drivers.

"We started this community pantry as a family effort lang muna, so nagtayo kami ng maliit na stall, nag-grocery ako and nag-share kami ng gulay kasi it's an act of solidarity. We can see on the ground the situation of our neighbors na walang masyadong kita, or yung iba walang trabaho," he told an online forum Wednesday.

[Translation: We started this community pantry as a family effort. I bought groceries and our family shared some vegetables, because we see it as an act of solidarity for our neighbors who do not have much to earn, or are jobless.]

Days later, flyers and posters detailing Principe's alleged links to the Communist Party of the Philippines were circulated near the pantry.

ALERT: Matapos ang red-tagging ng Maginhawa Community Pantry ay nagkalat naman ang mga polyeto na umaatake kay Rene...

Posted by SALiGAN sa CSSP on Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Fellow UP community members rallied behind Principe, with UP Diliman Chancellor Fidel Nemenzo coming out with a statement of support.

"I express my utmost condemnation of the red-tagging of Mr. Rene Principe, a UP faculty member from the National Institute of Physics, who set up a community pantry in Cagayan de Oro City. Opo, red-tagging na naman. Hindi na sila natuto," Nemenzo said.

[Translation: This is red-tagging again. They have not learned.]

Nemenzo also slammed incidents of red-tagging in general, calling it "a threat to our constitutional right of freedom of expression, it places people in harm's way, and shames those who are helping others in a time of need." He also described it as a "massive waste of time, resource, and effort," which he believes should have been better spent in pandemic response.

Earlier this week, the Kauswagan pantry's inspiration the Maginhawa Community Pantry in Quezon City - temporarily stopped operations after its founder, UP Diliman alumna Ana Patricia "Patreng" Non, reported incidents of red-tagging and harassment. It eventually reopened Wednesday morning.