Halal restaurant owner's community pantry 'profiled' by Cagayan de Oro cops

A restaurateur who set up a community pantry outside her restaurant in Cagayan de Oro said that four to five men who introduced themselves as policemen visited them Wednesday afternoon, April 21.

Norkhalila Mae Mambuay Campong, owner of Babu Kwan Restaurant, said in a text message to Rappler, "Red-tagging, I think, is real. While I was arranging the pantry outside Babu Kwan, I was personally approached by four to five men who introduced themselves as police intel."

"They were asking who are the donors. When they recognized me as the owner, they immediately said an alibi that they just want to protect us from the incident in Manila, 'hakot eggs si ate (ate taking all the eggs),'" Campong said, referring to an incident where a woman took an entire tray of eggs from a community pantry.

"What's the connection to that?" Campong said, recalling how she just laughed.

One of her staff was able to take pictures of the police officers while they were asking questioning Campong.

Campong, however, said she "can't be too sure" if the men were indeed policemen because she was too busy doing chores that she forgot to ask for the men's identification.

"I will wait for them [Thursday, April 22] if ever they would come back,"  she said.

Unknown to the supposed intelligence police officers, Campong was the former Cabinet secretary of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao from December 2011 to January 2018, under former governor Mujiv Hataman. 

Campong  also became the chief of staff of Hataman from January 2018 to February 2019.

On Wednesday, the first community pantry in Cagayan de Oro, the Kauswagan Community Pantry, decided to stop operations due to red-tagging.

The Philippine National Police has already ordered an investigation into the red-tagging of community pantries by some police units.

'Ridiculous'

Cagayan de Oro 2nd District Representative and Deputy Speaker Rufus Rodriguez said that instead of harassing these community pantries, the government should help instead.

"Government should encourage people as this is the spirit of helping and giving in these difficult times," Rodriguez said.

He also said it is wrong to red-tag community initiatives that help people who are in need.

Iglesia Filipina Independente Bishop Bert Calang also lambasted the red-tagging of community pantries.

"It is ridiculous! But, of course, it shows the inutility of this government to properly manage the pandemic," Calang said.

Carlos Conde, a Cagayanon and a senior researcher at Human Rights Watch, said that red-tagging is seriously damaging.

"This is not just one negligible issue; this is about life and death, about human rights, about civil liberties. Lieutenant General Antonio Parlade Jr is the spokesperson of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC). Parlade also red-tagged other community pantries across the Philippines," he added.

On Tuesday, April 20, Parlade admitted they had profiled the organizers of community pantries in the country. – Rappler.com