Just a few days after community pantries were set up in different parts of the country, several individuals – including police and government officials – have begun red-tagging and profiling a number of organizers.
Ana Patricia “Patreng” Non, who started the viral community pantry at Maginhawa, temporarily halted their operations on Tuesday, April 20. Early Tuesday morning, she posted screenshots of the Quezon City Police District and the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) sharing posts that baselessly claimed the pantries were being used by communist groups.
There are also reports of other organizers being profiled, and even NTF-ELCAC Spokesperson Lieutenant General Antonio Parlade admitted to conducting background checks. However, PNP chief General Debold Sinas – also a member of the NTF-ELCAC – distanced Camp Crame from the profiling of pantry organizers.
If you’re organizing a community pantry and uniformed authorities approach you for your personal details, here are some steps you can take according to Karapatan, the Ateneo Human Rights Center, and human rights lawyer Chel Diokno.
If you are asked for your personal information, ask why they need to gather such data and for what purpose it will be used. Ask for the identities of the officers involved. If authorities are in plainclothes, ask for a government ID and their affiliation (whether it be the Philippine National Police, National Bureau of Investigation, etc.).
Authorities may also look for a permit for your community pantry, but some local government units (LGUs) may not require organizers to secure permits beforehand. (READ: 10 Metro Manila LGUs say no to permit needed for community pantries)
If the community pantry is on private property, law enforcers are not allowed to enter the premises without a search warrant signed by a judge, unless the owner of the property gives them permission to do so.
If you are asked about Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) solicitations, remember that these only apply to regional and national fund campaigns – community pantries are not covered.
If authorities say you have to discontinue operations because it violates guidelines by the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF), remember that these regulations are only recommendatory unless your LGU adopts them as local ordinances. Even under IATF guidelines, mass gatherings for authorized humanitarian activities – including distributing food through community pantries – are allowed in areas under enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) and modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ).
Community pantry organizers are under no obligation to fill out any forms. The Data Privacy Act of 2012 says personal information can only be collected for specific and legitimate purposes determined and declared beforehand, or as soon as reasonably practicable after collection. Information must also be processed fairly and lawfully.
If you do not want to divulge any personal information, explain your reasons for declining. If you are forced to fill out the forms, accomplish them and write the letters UP (under protest) or UD (under duress) next to your name and/or signature.
Authorities may also ask if organizers are linked to any organizations they might deem a communist front. Respectfully decline to answer such questions and do not tolerate red-tagging. After all, community pantries are a collective effort of the residents in your area or barangay – not the communist movement.
Take note of the basic 5Ws (who, what, when, where, why) and 1H (how). Take as many photos and videos as possible, including photos of authorities’ identification cards. Remember that you do not need authorities’ consent to record videos and take photos, as this is not a private conversation.
Send letters and reports to your mayors, governors, and city councilors to let them know your rights were violated. If applicable, you may also file a blotter report to properly record the incident – this is where your 5Ws and 1H come in handy.
You may also send reports to organizations such as the Commission on Human Rights and Karapatan, and seek legal assistance. (READ: In the Philippines, lawyers are called to protect community pantries)
One of the best ways to report incidents like these is to post on social media. Post any and all evidence and tag media outlets, rights groups, and trusted officials. – Rappler.com