MANILA – Interior Secretary Eduardo Año on Tuesday denied giving orders to the Philippine National Police (PNP) to look into community pantries across the country.
“I have not ordered the PNP to look into the community pantries around the country. The community pantry has been a traditional practice in our country as part of bayanihan (civic unity) culture and spirit especially during times of calamities. Iba-iba lang ang pangalan (Only the names vary). As long as the intention is good and without political color, it should be encouraged as long as health standard protocols are complied with,” Año said in a message to the Philippine News Agency (PNA) when sought for comment.
He also added that community pantry organizers must adhere to existing laws and local ordinances.
“The PNP and/or local officials may just come in if there is any violation of the law or if there are complaints from the community,” Año added.
PNP chief Gen. Debold Sinas also refuted allegations of profiling on individuals or groups involved in organizing community pantries.
“There is no order from the National Headquarters to conduct any form of profiling of organizers of community pantries. It is beyond the interest of the PNP to delve into purely voluntary personal activities of private citizens,” Sinas said in a press statement.
Sinas said they are aware that these community pantries are an expression of camaraderie among Filipinos.
“We have no intention to interfere but to serve the best interest of law and order and public safety in such public activities,” the PNP chief said.
However, he said they are keeping a close watch on the observance of minimum health standards especially when these activities draw a huge crowd.
“We have seen similar activities during the community quarantine of 2020 when some farmers’ organizations and LGUs (local government units) hauled their surplus produce of fruits and vegetables to depressed communities in Metro Manila,” Sinas said.
He added that police officers are focused on extending assistance to ensure the orderly distribution of food items to those in need.
LGU permit needed
Meanwhile, Interior Undersecretary for Barangay Affairs Martin Diño said those putting up community pantries would now have to secure permits for these activities from the barangay (village) or local government unit.
“Yes, dahil unang-una, nung time na may disaster, wala pang pandemic noon. Kaya pwedeng-pwedeng pumila at magpalitan ng mukha ang mga beneficiary. Pero ngayon may Covid-19 (coronavirus disease 2019), may protocol tayong sinusunod — physical distancing (Because first of all, in the case of past disasters, we still do not have a pandemic. The beneficiaries can just fall in line and flock. But now, we have Covid-19 and we have a protocol to follow — to observe physical distancing),” Diño said in an interview with ABS-CBN News Channel.
He noted that this is to ensure that health and safety protocols are being followed.
“Instead na nagbibigay ka ng pagkain, baka yan pa ang mag trigger para magkahawa-hawa. Maganda ung intention pero ang end result ay iniiwasan ‘yung magkaroon ng violation ng physical distancing (What we are concerned about is that protocols should not be violated. Instead of just giving out food, this might trigger transmission. The intention is good but the end result is we want to avoid violation of physical distancing,” Diño added. with Priam Nepomuceno/PNA – northboundasia.com