Mayors, senators defend community pantries amid alleged red-tagging, requiring of permits

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Some Metro Manila mayors will not require community pantries to secure permits to operate. (FILE PHOTO)

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, April 20) — Some Metro Manila mayors will not require community pantries to secure permits to operate.

This was the sentiment of Manila Mayor Isko Moreno, Valenzuela Mayor Rex Gatchalian, and Pasig Mayor Vico Sotto.

"Good deeds need no permits," said Moreno in a tweet on Tuesday.

He also directed Manila police to avoid blocking the pantries' operations. There are now over 120 community pantries all over the country, offering necessities such as food and medical supplies to residents for free.

Gatchalian also gave a warning to people who would get in the way of the pantries in Valenzuela.

"If somebody gives you trouble let me know... ako bahala sa kanila [I will take care of them]," he said.

Their statements came after Interior Undersecretary Martin Diño told ANC's Headstart that special permits may be required before a pantry is set up to ensure health protocols are still followed. He later took back his statement and said permits will no longer be needed.

Red-tagging

Pantries have also been the subject of red-tagging by anti-communist task force officials amid alleged links of some organizers to communists - a claim that has not been proven. The red-tagging forced the first community pantry in the country located in Maginhawa, Quezon City to temporarily shut down over fears for the owner's security. There were also reports of supposed police asking for personal details of pantry managers.

Quezon City Mayor Joy Belmonte assured the public the local government supports the community pantries, adding she will meet with city police officials to discuss the security concerns of Maginhawa pantry owner Patricia Non. PBGen Antonio Yarra, Quezon City Police District Director, said the force apologizes to the affected parties and said they are reaching out to Non.

Lawmakers were also disturbed by the red-tagging and called for unity and support from the government instead of preventing others from doing good.

"The government should back off," Senator Sherwin Gatchalian told CNN Philippines' News Night.

Senate President Tito Sotto voiced a similar appeal to the government.

"I appeal to our officials not to make it difficult for those who want to help," he said. "[P]lease leave them alone."

Meanwhile, Senator Nancy Binay said "Ganyan na ba ka-paranoid na pati ang pagtulong sa kapwa ay minamasama? Anong ambag n'yo?"

[Translation: Are we that paranoid that we have to find fault in offering help? What is your contribution?]