The woman whose trailblazing community pantry initiative inspired thousands of Filipinos to extend a similar helping hand to the needy has had enough of the red-baiting.
Ana Patricia Non, in a virtual press briefing she organized on Tuesday, April 20, did not mince words against institutions that linked community pantries with communist propaganda.
“Dini-discredit ng mga tao kapag nire-red-tag iyong community effort… Hindi lang ako iyong dini-discredit ninyo, [kundi] pati iyong buong community pantry na nag-e-exist sa buong Pilipinas,” Non said.
(The community effort is credited when it is red-tagged. I’m not the only one you discredit, but all community pantries existing in the Philippines.)
Non closed the pioneering community pantry in Maginhawa on Tuesday amid fears for her and her volunteers’ safety, forcing dozens of patrons to return home empty handed.
“Masakit kasi natigil kahit isang araw lang, kasi isipin mo, ilang pamilya, ilang meals sana iyong ihahanda ng pantry natin (Stopping operations hurts when you think about how many families we could have helped),” Non lamented.
Casting these threats aside, Non reopened her pioneering makeshift, sidewalk pantry Wednesday, April 21.
What felt like a slap on the face for Non was how personnel from the Quezon City Police District, whom she also personally offered goods, were the ones who red-tagged the community pantry initiative.
“Pinost po ng QCPD sa official page nito na ang community pantry ay propaganda ng Communist Party [of the Philippines]. Nalulungkot ako kasi ilang araw na tayong magkakasama, nagtutulungan,” she said.
(The QCPD posted on social media that community pantries were communist propaganda. It is disheartening because we’ve been working hand in hand with them the past few days.)
She invited critics to visit her space in Maginhawa to see for themselves that the project transcended political color.
“Yayain ko na lang po kayo na pumunta mismo sa community pantry para marinig ninyo iyong kwento, makita ninyo iyong linya, at makita ninyo iyong mga tao,” Non said.
(I am inviting you to visit the pantry and see for yourself the long lines. See the people, and listen to their stories.)
Enough is enough
During her press briefing, Non did not hide her frustration when a reporter asked her whether she had links to the communist movement.
The line of questioning drew significant backlash online, with some netizens pointing out that it may cause more harm to the subject.
“Wala po akong links sa Communist Party. Pasensya na po pero ang dumi ng question na iyan (I have no links to the CPP. Your line of questioning is foul),” Non said.
“Between me and other people na nagkulang sa response, hindi po ako ang dapat nag-e-explain kung sino ba ako dahil malinaw ang intensyon ko una pa lang (Between me and other people who failed at their pandemic response, I’m not the one that has explaining to do because my intentions have always been clear.),” she added.
Non, who from day one was vocal about the government’s supposed mishandling of the pandemic, credited her activist roots back in college for her willingness to serve the less fortunate during the pandemic.
“Hindi masama ang mga aktibista…. Kung hindi ko natutunan iyong ganitong foundation sa [University of the Philippines] at sa iba’t ibang organizations ko… baka hindi ko na-set up iyong community pantry,” Non said.
(Activists are not bad people…. If I did not get this kind of foundation/background in college, I may not have been able to set up the community pantry.)
She also challenged groups that red-tagged community pantries to provide aid to hungry Filipinos if they keep on maligning good Samaritans.
“Kung gusto nila itigil ang community pantry, gusto nila ipagpatuloy ang red-tagging, sige po gawin ninyo, pero kaya ninyo bang pakainin at bigyan ng sapat na tulong ang mga taong ito?” Non asked.
(If you want to stop community pantries and continue with the red-tagging, do it, but can you provide aid and food to the needy?)
“Alam kong may ginagawa ang government, pero sa tingin ko, kulang ito, kasi hindi naman pipila ang tao nang mahaba kung sapat na iyong nakukuha nila,” Non said.
(I know the government is doing something, but I don’t think it is enough. If people were getting enough from the government, they won’t be waiting in long lines.)
The pantry marches on
Non said she spent her Tuesday coordinating with local officials to make sure the red-baiting stopped.
Quezon City Mayor Joy Belmonte assured Non that community pantry organizers in her locality would be in safe hands.
“The city government will therefore ensure that the organizers and beneficiaries of community pantries remain safe and unimpeded,” Belmonte said Tuesday.
The Quezon City Police District has also apologized, and has been subjected to a formal investigation by the QC People’s Law Enforcement Board, a “check and balance mechanism created by law against erring police”. – Rappler.com