VERA FILES FACT CHECK: DILG, security officials flip-flop on what to do with community pantries

Drawing inspiration from the community pantry on Maginhawa St. in Quezon City put up by 26-year-old Ana Patricia Non on April 14, more than 300 similar food stalls have sprouted across the country in less than a week. However, the top three executives of the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) and some security officials gave confusing and contradicting statements on what to do with the charity initiative.

From saying that organizers “need” to secure a permit from the barangays or the local government units (LGUs) to “control” the volume of people lining up to get goods from the pantries, an undersecretary of the DILG retracted his statement the next day, saying they just have to coordinate with the barangay officials for crowd control to prevent the spread of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

Some of the community pantry organizers and volunteers were red-tagged and reportedly approached by law enforcers for “profiling” or asking them what groups they are affiliated with, among other personal details.

VERA Files Fact Check tracked the flip-flopping statements of the public officials that have caused not only confusion among the public but also “fear” for the safety of the community pantry volunteers and their families.

On needing to ‘secure’ a permit from local authorities

In separate interviews on April 20, DILG undersecretaries Martin Diño and Jonathan Malaya gave contradictory statements on whether community pantry organizers will have to secure a permit from the barangay to operate.

As the undersecretary for barangay affairs, Diño said in an interview on ANC Headstart that community pantry organizers need to obtain a permit from the barangay that has jurisdiction over the venue. He warned that its chairperson could face charges for mass gathering if they fail to ensure physical distancing of people queuing in the community pantries.

But Malaya, in another interview on ABS-CBN Teleradyo an hour later, said that the DILG would not want to “interfere” with the charity drive and advised barangay officials to not require permits for organizers to set up community pantries.

Diño backtracked the next day after Secretary Eduardo Año clarified that it is up to the barangays to decide if a permit is required.

Diño then falsely claimed that the media had “misquoted” him on his earlier statement.

Most Metro Manila mayors have thrown their support behind the community pantries by saying that no permit is needed to put up stalls for the distribution of donated consumer goods, provided that health protocols are observed.

However, the Metro Manila Council (MMC) — the policy making body of the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) comprised of all the 17 Metro Manila mayors — released MMDA Resolution No. 21-08 on April 25, which “strongly urges” the organizers to coordinate their activities with LGUs to ensure proper implementation of COVID-19 protocols.

This came after the death of Rolando Dela Cruz, 67, who collapsed while waiting in line at the community pantry organized by actress Angel Locsin in celebration of her 36th birthday. Thousands of people flocked to the community pantry in Brgy. Holy Spirit, Quezon City, where goods for only 300 people with pre-distributed coupons were prepared. The huge crowd failed to observe physical distancing.

Quezon City Mayor Joy Belmonte issued guidelines for community pantries, including a requirement for organizers to furnish a written notice to the barangay about the activity, but a permit to operate is not necessary.

Año also changed his position, directing community pantry organizers to coordinate with LGUs and the Philippine National Police (PNP), primarily for crowd control. Otherwise, the community pantry may face closure if health protocols are violated, he said in an interview on ABS-CBN Teleradyo Kabayan segment on April 27.

On ‘profiling’ organizers and volunteers

Some of the community pantry volunteers have raised fears for their safety and security following insinuations from some officials that they were members of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP).

On April 20, for instance, Non temporarily closed the Maginhawa pantry — meant to supply food and other basic goods to the poor and hungry — after she was red-tagged by some policemen from the Quezon City Police District (QCPD) and the spokesperson of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC).

QCPD later apologized after the backlash and deleted its red-tagging post.

Meanwhile, top officials of the NTF-ELCAC, including National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon, Communications Undersecretary Lorraine Badoy and Southern Luzon Command chief, Lt. Gen. Antonio Parlade Jr., said they were “checking” the background of organizers because leftists groups supposedly exploit the initiatives for “propaganda” against the government’s COVID-19 response.

This runs counter to the statements of the DILG, the Department of Justice (DOJ), and PNP — all co-members of the NTF-ELCAC — that they did not instruct the profiling of the organizers of community pantries.

Some senators are pushing to defund the NTF-ELCAC next year following the red-tagging of community pantry organizers. Parlade, in an interview on ONE News Channel’s The Chiefs, likened the spread of community pantries to “Satan giving an apple to Eve.”

Esperon, vice chair of the anti-communist task force, has since ordered the two spokespersons of NTF-ELCAC, Badoy and Parlade, to “desist” from making statements about the community pantries.

The National Privacy Commission has called on the PNP to stop the reported profiling of the community pantry organizers:

“We call on again the attention of the PNP Data Protection Office to look into these reports and take appropriate measures to prevent any doings of its personnel on the ground that could potentially harm citizens and violate rights.”

Meanwhile, the PNP and DILG said they were investigating the reported solicitation of private information by policemen.

In relation to this, the Ateneo Human Rights Center and human rights lawyer Chel Diokno have released instructions on what to do when a uniformed personnel asks for private information.



Anna Patricia Non Facebook, Maginhawa Community Pantry: Magbigay ayon sa kakayahan, kumuha batay sa pangangailangan, April 14, 2021

GMA News Online, Senators slam ‘red-tagging’ of community pantry organizers, April 20, 2021

Manila Bulletin, PNP denies harassing, red-tagging community pantry organizers, April 20, 2021

Rappler, Senators: Stop ‘deplorable’ red-tagging of community pantries, April 20, 2021, Netizens call out cops for ‘profiling’ community pantry organizers, April 19, 2021

Business World, Privacy commission, senators castigate police for profiling community pantry organizer, April 20, 2021

Philstar, MPD denies profiling organizers, April 21, 2021

Anna Patricia Non Facebook, Community Pantry, Presscon: Hindi magandang balita. Bukas po pause muna ang #MaginhawaCommunityPantry…, April 20, 2021, Pandacan community pantry shut as organizers fear being red-tagged, April 22, 2021

Rappler, Pandacan community pantry in Manila shuts down due to red-tagging fears, April 22, 2021

Philstar, Pandacan community pantry shuts down, April 23, 2021

On needing to secure a permit from local authorities

Metro Manila mayors

Angel Locsin’s community pantry

Quezon City Government, Memorandum: Community Pantry Guidelines, April 23, 2021

Department of the Interior and Local Government, DILG Press Release: PR Code No. 2021-04-23-03 DILG tells community pantry organizers to tap LGUs, PNP for crowd control, April 23, 2021

TeleRadyo, Audio Stream: Kabayan segment (8:00 a.m.), April 27, 2021 (archived)

On ‘profiling’ organizers and volunteers

Manila Bulletin, QCPD apologizes for red-tagging community pantries, April 20, 2021

Rappler, QCPD apologizes for sharing post red-tagging community pantries, April 20, 2021

GMA News Online, QCPD apologizes for social media post ‘red-tagging’ community pantry organizers, April 20, 2021

Official Gazette of the Philippines, Executive Order No. 70: Institutionalizing the Whole-of-Nation Approach in Attaining Inclusive and Sustainable Peace, Creating NTF-ELCAC, and directing the Adoption of a National Peace Framework, Dec. 4, 2018 (archived)

Flip-flops on ‘profiling’ organizers

AP Non has raised half a million pesos in just a few days, April 21, 2021

Defunding of NTF-ELCAC

National Privacy Commission, On the Alleged Profiling of Community Pantry Organizers, April 20, 2021

What to do when uniformed personnel asks for private information


(Guided by the code of principles of the International Fact-Checking Network at Poynter, VERA Files tracks the false claims, flip-flops, misleading statements of public officials and figures, and debunks them with factual evidence. Find out more about this initiative and our methodology.)