While some policemen in Metro Manila were under fire following a red-tagging incident of a community pantry organizer, two police stations in Negros Occidental joined the initiative Tuesday, April 20, to help their constituents.
The Escalante City Police Station led by Lt. Col. Gil John Despi set up a community pantry in front of their station, where the public can get free food such as eggs, vegetables, rice, canned goods, fruits, and other essential goods.
The police also posted messages that read: “Tabang sang mga kapulisan sa mas ga kinahanglan (help of the police for those in need)” and “Kuha lang basi sa kinahanglan ug paghatag basi sa masarangan (take what you need and give what you can).”
They started the initiative to help those who are in need and their police station is accepting donations from those who have much and are willing to share, Despi said.
In Toboso, the police station led by Capt. Kenneth Magan, together with the municipal government headed by Mayor Richard Jaojoco, also launched their own community pantry to help residents.
Both the Escalante and Toboso police announced on their Facebook pages that they received donations from citizens for the initiative.
Interior Secretary Eduardo Año, in a statement Tuesday, said he has not ordered the police to look into the community pantries around the country.
“The community pantry has been a traditional practice in our country as part of (our) Bayanihan culture and spirit, especially in the times of calamities and disasters. Iba iba lang ang pangalan: community pantry, food bank, soup kitchen, kapitbahayan and ayuda, among others. In the spirit of Bayanihan, many Filipinos have been doing selfless acts of kindness since last year,” he said.
He added, “as long as the intention is good and without political color, it should be encouraged and supported. Since this is a purely voluntary and private initiative, we should not interfere except to ensure that minimum health standards are complied with.”
He also said that organizers must adhere to existing laws and local ordinances to prevent the spread of Covid-19.
As to the issue of whether organizers are required to secure barangay permits, organizers should consult with the concerned barangays if such is required, he said.
He also said that the police or local officials may just come in if there is any violation of law, if there are complaints from the community, or if the organizers seek their help.
Meanwhile, the establishment of community pantries around Bacolod City and in the province continued Tuesday.
Among those were a group of students from the University of St. La Salle led by Carlo Bais, who put up a community pantry in front of their school.
A Bacolod Community Food Pantries Facebook page was also established so residents can see updates of the initiative.*