Community Panties

>> Friday, April 30, 2021

Alfred P. Dizon

LA TRINIDAD, Benguet – Credit it to the healthy imagination of our perennially drunk neighborhood philosopher who said the community pantries which sprouted nationwide should be called “community panties.”
    Why, he asks with the wink of an eye when I saw him during one of talks on the road beside the house. Well, because you see a lot of people going to such places wearing panties, although these are covered.
Corny and pilit  I told him. But he was not about to stop. It’s like this, he explains. Panties signify humanity. When panties go down, people multiply. It is the same with these pantries. When these are set up, people multiply. Ahh, I nodded, then off I went.
In our barangay of Betag here, our neighbor Mia Magdalena Fokno Longid organized the first pantry in this capital town.
The donors, it seems, exceeded those who partook of the goods. As she related in her Facebook account, people of all walks of life came to donate goods and funds.
When a couple came out of the Inglay Restaurant their family owns along km 6 and saw what they were doing in front of the establishment, they gave P1,000 without hesitation.
A group of kids riding bicycles also came from the nearby Strawberry Fields and donated vegetables. So on and on it went. Mia said she used the money to buy more goods from the nearby Kenwayne Mart.
A working student came and took something for her dinner. Beneficiaries also got only what they needed at the moment. Nobody got more than enough so others would partake of the goods. 
We would like to congratulate Mia for a job well done. Mia, by the way, is the daughter of lawyer Inglay Capuyan Fokno of Sagada.
I hope nobody among the police would red-tag Mia, as they are doing with other pantry organizers nationwide. But I doubt if anybody among the police would do that like the former regional PNP chief who even wanted to “tokhang” the media, religious and cause-oriented groups.
It seems, the policy of new Cordillera police director Brig. Gen. Oliver Lee is to foster good relationships with the public basing from press releases they send to this paper, so I guess, Mia can sleep well at night.    
Some pantries were reportedly set up in nearby Baguio City. But it seems, these were politicized, basing from reports, so let us leave it at that.
The "community pantry" of essential goods first emerged along a street in Quezon City and has spread in other areas of the country.
The young lady organizer however had to stop the pantry when some cops went to the area asking intrusive personal questions and asking for her phone number.
This, after Southern Luzon Command chief Lt. Gen. Antonio Parlade and Communications Undersecretary Lorraine Badoy said some groups, like those who set up community pantries were acting as legal fronts of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People's Army (CPP-NPA).
Critics have retorted, is this the way taxpayers’ money is being spent? Government officials, instead of helping people uplift their lives instead go to the extent of derailing humanitarian activities like pantries by red-tagging organizers.   
Many praise the effort as a form of community spirit, where strangers help strangers during the Covid-19 pandemic. But at the same time, they see it as a critique of the government's response to the coronavirus, which they feel is not reaching the people who need help the most.
Senators Nancy Binay, Leila de Lima, Frank Drilon, Sherwin Gatchalian, Risa Hontiveros, Kiko Pangilinan, Grace Poe, and Ralph Recto have urged the law enforcement leadership to investigate the profiling and red-tagging of community pantries’ organizers in various parts of the country, and instead hold a dialogue with them.
The senators also condemned the posts of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) on social media.
"The profiling of organizers must stop. It puts people’s lives in danger, knowing how notorious some police, military officers, and personnel are in red-tagging progressives and now civic-minded citizens who only want to do good for their fellow men and women," they said.
Sen. Panfilo Lacson had praised the community pantries on April 18. He said these show that people are now acting on their own, more than a year into the pandemic.
"It is good that through the community pantries, we see mutual aid by neighbors and barangay residents. But this is also a sign of desperation, that people can no longer rely on government to help them," said Lacson in an interview with DZBB.
"When you realize you cannot rely solely on government, you band together to find ways to survive," he added.
Former vice president Jejomar Binay also tweeted, "The message behind the rise of community pantries is simple: when government is absent, we can look after each other."
In these community pantries, anyone can leave food and other essential goods in a marked communal area, then anyone who needs these goods can freely take it.
Sen. Juan Edgardo Angara was also encouraged by the "bayanihan" spirit exhibited in these community pantries.
"Come to think of it, it may be a small thing for a person, family, or to give free vegetables, fruits, rice, water, or noodles to those who are suffering in these times, those who lost their livelihood.
He urged national and local governments as well as private businesses to pitch in. Angara said these sectors can "replicate and even scale up these community pantries to cater to even more people."
He said food manufacturers, for instance, can "share their production through their own pantries or just bring them over to the existing operations in their respective areas."
I could already see our neighborhood philosopher with his trademark smirk saying, let us have more of these community panties.


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