What to do when cops approach your community pantry

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, April 21) — Authorities are not allowed to conduct any form of profiling in areas where community pantries are established. But how can organizers and volunteers protect themselves from potential security threats?

Interior Undersecretary and Spokesperson Jonathan Malaya on Wednesday told CNN Philippines' The Source that community pantry organizers may take videos of approaching cops to establish evidence against those violating orders.

"Sa panahon ngayon ganoon na di ba?" he said. "Everybody has a cellphone. Kung totoong may nangyari na ganyan, kunan nila ng picture. Kahit patago, kunan lang ng video, that could establish it."

[Translation: Nowadays, that's how it works, right? Everybody has a cellphone. If something like that really happened, they can take a photo. Even discreetly, take a video, that could establish it.]

Malaya said they are already looking into the truth behind the allegations of some community pantry organizers against "red-tagging" activities by authorities in various areas.

However, he said a more solid proof would help them address the matter further. He said even police from Camp Crame headquarters want to find out what really happened, since there were no pictures provided by those who say they were visited by police officers.

"Walang description kung naka-uniporme ba, naka-civilan clothes, kung ano ang pangalan," he added. "For all we know this could have been an impostor. But nonetheless, since may report na ganito, we have directed the PNP kung merong nagprofile."

[Translation: They did not provide descriptions whether the men were in uniform, in civilian clothes, or what their names were. For all we know, this could have been an impostor. But nonetheless, since we have this report, we have directed the Philippine National Police to check if someone conducted profiling.]

Community pantry organizers do not need to secure permits with their local government units nor fill out forms to start their operations. Malaya said they only need to coordinate with their respective barangays and ensure that the minimum health protocols are being followed among residents getting basic goods.

"Any police officer or local official who will undertake a similar profiling will be made accountable by the DILG and the PNP," Malaya added.

In a Facebook post on Wednesday, Free Legal Assistance Group chair Chel Diokno also gave some tips on what to do when law enforcement agents drop by your community pantry. Here are some of them: 

- If they are uniform, take note of their names. If they are in civilian clothes, politely ask for their government ID, their name and affiliation. If they refuse, politely say that you cannot accommodate them.

- Do not allow law enforcers to come in without a search warrant if the community pantry is on private property. If they insist, assert your right. If the community pantry is on public land, make sure you are not obstructing traffic, littering, or violating any local regulations.

- You are not obligated to fill out any form or provide personal information. Do not sign any document which potentially contains a waiver of rights. Take a photo of the document and consult with a legal counsel before signing.

- If law enforcers attempt to demolish or dismantle your community pantry, politely and firmly object, but do not physically resist. Do not ask for their consent when taking a photo or a video of what they are doing.

- If possible, set up CCTV cameras in the area that can record 24/7.

- Assert your rights if law enforcers attempt to arrest or search you, others, or the community pantry. Know more about them here.

On Tuesday, Maginhawa Community Pantry halted its operations after lead organizer Patricia Non said some police officers started asking for her affiliation after days of manning the area.

She also raised concern about the "alarming" social media post of the Quezon City Police District linking them and other community pantries to rebel groups.

The QCPD and the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict shared 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.

Malaya said they will also look into the matter.

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

Maginhawa community pantry resumed its operations on Wednesday. Non said they are able to serve over a thousand residents per day by giving free canned goods, rice, vegetables, and other essential items.

Other makeshift community pantries inside and outside Metro Manila have also popped up in the past days and replicated its operations.