DILG's contradicting statements on community pantry permit sow confusion

The Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) is leaving it up to barangay local government units (LGUs) whether to impose permit requirements for community pantry organizers.

Interior Secretary Eduardo Año made the clarification on Tuesday, April 20, after contradicting statements from his undersecretaries earlier in the day sowed confusion among the public.

“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 in a statement.

"Organizers must adhere to existing laws and local ordinances especially those issued to prevent the spread of COVID-19," Año added.

Initially, Interior undersecretary Martin Diño asserted the need for a permit due to COVID-19 transmission risks posed by overcrowding at community pantries.

“Now they need a permit, from the mayor or the barangay.... Dinumog na ng tao, ibig sabihin, wala nang kontrol, at iyong protocol ngayon, na-violate na (People formed a crowd already, there was no control, and protocols were violated),” Diño said in an interview with the ABS-CBN News Channel (ANC) past 8 am Tuesday.

An hour later, Interior undersecretary Jonathan Malaya spoke with Teleradyo and said that barangays should not compel community pantry organizers to seek a permit before them.

Ang order lang po ni Secretary [Eduardo] Año to the barangay, kapag humingi ng tulong ang mga pantry organizers, please extend the help (Our secretary’s order to the barangay is to extend help to community pantry organizers who will seek assistance),” he said.

Pero kung hindi sila humingi ng tulong, huwag panghimasukan kasi sasabihin na naman umeepal tayo, at hina-hijack natin ang community pantry, when in fact, it is just a private initiative (But if they do not ask for help, we should not intervene because people will say we are unnecessarily meddling in and hijacking the initiative),” Malaya added.

It was only around 11 am that the DILG issued it official stance on the matter through a press release.

Following DILG's pronouncement, Diño backtracked on his initial statement.

"No need for barangay permit, [unless] organizers want to coordinate with the [barangay chief] to secure health protocols [are observed]," Diño told Rappler.

This is not the first time the DILG had to clarify statements made by its undersecretaries. The agency previously distanced itself from undersecretary Epimaco Densing III's remarks on the government's pandemic response and Diño's suggestion to arrest eager recipients of supplemental cash aid.

‘No politicking, please’

In the same television interview, Malaya appealed to politicians not to take advantage of community pantries.

Mas maganda po sana na huwag nang haluan ng pulitika... itong community pantry (don’t politicize this), this is an expression of people’s desire to help others in this time of pandemic,” Malaya said.

Iyong ibang party-list groups, ibang mga pulitiko, lahat na sumasakay dito (Other party-list groups and politicians have joined the trend),” Malaya added.

He however maintained that community pantries have a right to promote advocacies.

Ang opinion po namin diyan is that is protected speech. Wala namang inciting to rebellion diyan sa paglagay ng 'No to Youth Killings', so kailangang hindi galawin iyan (That is protected speech. There is no inciting to rebellion in the ‘No to Youth Killings’ call, so authorities must not remove those cardboards,” Malaya said.

Ana Patricia "Patreng" Non, the woman behind the community pantry that inspired other organizers in various parts of the Philippines, temporarily shut down her project on Tuesday amid red-tagging by the Quezon City Police District and the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict on social media.

The Philippine National Police (PNP) however has denied there was an effort to red-tag and profile community pantry organizers.

“There is no order from the National Headquarters to conduct any form of profiling of organizers of community pantries. It is beyond the interest of the PNP to delve into purely voluntary personal activities of private citizens,” PNP chief Police General Debold Sinas said Tuesday.

Many community pantries in other parts of the Philippines remain operational as of Tuesday. – Rappler.com