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Philippine priests blast red-tagging of pantry organizer

Police accused of trying to stop efforts to help poor after 'branding community pantry provider a communist'

Philippine priests blast red-tagging of pantry organizer

Ana Non's community pantry in Quezon Ciry in Manila before the shutdown. (Photo supplied)

Churchmen have condemned a social media post, allegedly from police, accusing a community pantry organizer in the Philippine capital of supporting the outlawed Communist Party.

Community pantry organizer Ana Non said she was forced to shut down aid efforts to help the urban poor in a community in Manila’s Quezon City due to fears for her safety after police branded her initiative as communist propaganda on April 19.

People branded communist, or “red-tagged,” have often become targets of gunmen or persecuted by authorities, rights groups say.

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“[Police] 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,” Non said in an interview aired on national television

Non denied any links to communist groups, saying her efforts were merely to help the needy in a time of crisis.

She said uniformed officers visited the pantry several times to collect personal information about its organizers.

During this time of pandemic where many are hungry, why does the government question or antagonize initiatives to help the poor?

CaloocanBishop Pablo Virgilio David condemned the police comments on April 20, saying community pantry organizers should be supported rather than frightened.

He also urged government officials to spare those helping the needy from “dirty” politics such as red-tagging.

“Aren’t you thankful people are voluntarily helping each other?” he said in response to the police accusation on April 21.

Society of the Divine Word Father Flavie Villanueva, a staunch critic of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, described Non’s red-tagging as harassment by the government and a blatant attempt to stop efforts to help the poor.

“During this time of pandemic where many are hungry, why does the government question or antagonize initiatives to help the poor? Rather than impede efforts which strive to provide community aid, why not instead provide support to try and ensure a community’s safety and welfare?” he said.

Police have issued Non a public apology and denied red-tagging her and other community pantry organizers.

“Our Anti-Cybercrime Group has been assigned to investigate malicious texts and those posted on social media,” police spokesman Brig. Gen. Ronaldo Olay told reporters on April 21.

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