MANILA, Philippines (Updated 5:13 p.m.) — The community pantry set up at Provident Village in Marikina said it would be closing its doors moving forward after an encounter with cops who asked for personal information.
"I live alone and I'm scared to go back home… I'll take a break until I feel safe. We have to take care of our safety," one of the organizers told Philstar.com partially in Filipino in a phone call under the condition of anonymity. "I'm really scared right now, to be honest. I don't know how to go home."
According to the organizer, Marikina cops showed up Sunday morning, when only one organizer was there, and asked for their addresses and contact details. They even started taking pictures, the organizer said.
They also asked if the organizer belonged to any organizations but did not explain why this information was needed, only saying that they needed the details for official records.
The volunteers "politely declined" to give up their information, but the cops pressed, and the organizers felt forced to give in. The same officers showed up later on once the pantry was closing its doors for the day and offered the organizer a ride home, saying they just wanted to help.
"I said I was giving out too much information for a private initiative [but] they didn't seem like they would leave until we answered their questions," the organizer said. "I'm very much aware of what's happening to our other pantry organizers. So I was scared. They told me not to be because they wouldn't red-tag me."
Despite official police statements expressing support for the private-led initiatives, community pantry organizers continue to report intimidation and profiling at the hands of police weeks since the phenomenon began.
A weekly operation, the Providence pantry was set up in coordination with local government officials, they said.
Two organizers from a town in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao told Philstar.com in an earlier story that cops showed up at their residences—not their pantries—looking for them. Cops allegedly asked the organizers to fill up an information sheet where organizers of pantries were listed as a "priority intelligence requirement."
"Many times they offered to bring me back to my address," the organizer said.
'Profiling not an official protocol'
In a phone call with Philstar.com, Police Col. Restituto Arcangel, chief of Marikina City Police Station, said that recording information was not official police protocol.
Arcangel said that the official directive was for police to offer assistance, not for them to gather information for an "official record."
He denied that the police took pictures and asked for any contact details or addresses, saying they were likely just documenting the operation for their report and looking for the organizer to offer assistance to.
"Contact details were never mentioned. I don't know why they had the idea that the police harassed them. The instruction given to us from our higher authorities was to assist and support them," he said in Filipino, adding that cops were there to enforce health protocols.
"In my eyes it is normal for them to look for the organizer so they can coordinate. It was probably just a misunderstanding between the two."
Philstar.com sought Police Brig. Gen. Ronaldo Olay, PNP spokesperson, for comment, but he has not responded as of this post after numerous requests.
Speaking at a Laging Handa briefing in late April, though, Olay denied that the PNP had any policy to profile the organizers of community pantries.
“There is no order from chief Sinas to have profiling or red-tagging of personalities behind these community pantries,” he said.
“The intention of the PNP there is to serve the best intention of the public. We only look at it from the point of view of public safety. Police go there to monitor compliance to minimum public health standards.”
Philstar.com has also reached out to the office of Marikina City Mayor Marcy Teodoro but has yet to receive a response.
"I'm really scared now. I just want to know the reason they tried to get our details… they should let the pantry organizers why they need these so they don't cause fear," the organizer said.
"We only set up the community pantry because we wanted to help."
Follow this page for updates on community pantries, a simple initiative in a community in Quezon City, which became a movement to take action and help those in need. Main image by The STAR/Michael Varcas.
ABS-CBN says it stands by actress Angel Locsin, who has been criticized over the death of an elederly man who had lined up at a Quezon City community pantry she had set up to mark her birthday.
In a statement, the network says it "believes in the goodness of the heart of our Kapamilya Angel Locsin, who has tirelessly helped our countrymen in times of crisis."
"We admire her commitment to continue serving the Filipino people with selfless dedication and love."
"We stand by her and thank her for being a shining example of generosity, accountability, and compassion."
Quezon City Mayor Joy Belmonte releases the guidelines for the community pantries.
The guidelines include coordination with barangay, following health protocols, observing safety hours, among others.
At present, there are 90 community pantries in Quezon City.
Credit belongs to : www.philstar.com