Despite being targeted with red-tagging and negative criticisms, the community pantry spearheaded by the Iloilo Pride Team (IPT) in Iloilo City, Iloilo, was welcomed by communities, received strong support and underwent several developments. It has also inspired other community pantries in the Western Visayas province.
The LGBTQ+ organization’s humble effort in the barangay of Rizal in the district of La Paz is able to cater to hundreds of families a day, some even from other villages and communities including Bakhaw, Cubay, Bito-on, Lopez Jaena Norte, Pavia, Railway Lapaz and Ingore.
“We have also helped small vendors, trisikad drivers, single parents, senior citizens, people who lost their jobs during the pandemic, orphans because of extrajudicial killings, farmers and many communities,” said Irish Inoceto, chairperson of Iloilo Pride Team.
However, the community pantry is being “red-tagged” or linked with communist groups, against which the national government, through the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC), instigated a brutal crackdown. Some pantries in the province were also subjected to police profiling, which many consider as a form of harassment.
Red-tagging and profiling
Inoceto herself has been a subject of red-tagging. She was included as one of the persons depicted by tarpaulin banner hanging on the overpass near SM Delgado, West Visayas State University, and Gaisano City. Spotted on 23 April, the banner had photos and names of individuals said to be members of the CPP, NPA and NDF (Communist Party of the Philippines, New People’s Army and National Democratic Front).
IPT released a statement saying that “this move of the NTF-ELCAC is an attack and direct attempt of the state to silence critics. This is happening alongside the string of health and economic crises that we are presently facing as a result of the government’s failed pandemic responses.”
“In the past weeks and months, several activists were attacked, arrested, and killed based on mere speculation and suspicion alone.
Last year, activist and urban poor coordinator Jory Porquia was red-tagged by the state before he was gunned down by unknown assailants at his home in Iloilo City.
Fellow human rights defenders in the person of Randy Echanis, Sarah Alvarez, and Randy Malayao had suffered the same fate as well.
Recently, Ana Patricia Non, initiator of the Maginhawa Community Pantry, was harassed and red-tagged by the state. Clearly, these red-tagging activities pose a grave threat to the lives of red-tagged individuals.
It violates freedom of expression and right to association which the Constitution have accorded to all citizens of this nation. The Iloilo Pride Team denounces in its strongest term the red-tagging of Inoceto and all others who are only exercising their civic duties in their respective communities, now that the government is nowhere to be found,” they said.
“We demand our legislators to defund the NTF-ELCAC on the grounds that they cause more danger to human lives rather than bringing protection to the people.
We call on our local leaders to not tolerate these activities by issuing ordinances aimed at protecting its people by making the display of any materials and the conduct of any activities that red-tag individuals, groups, or organizations illegal.
Lastly, we call to junk the Anti-Terror Law that aims to target dissenters based on guilt by association alone.”
“Amid this pandemic, the primary and urgent needs of the people for mass testing, livelihood assistance, ayuda, gradual safe resumption for physical classes, and human rights protection should be prioritized above all else,” they concluded.
Other community pantries were subjected to profiling such as the one in the town of Estancia. According to local youth organization Kabataan Partylist Quinto, “volunteers were harassed by officers of the Estancia Municipal Police Office while distributing food at the Tulong Kabataan Community Kitchen Estancia.”
“The Estanciahanon youth are doing their best despite limited resources to feed the hungry of the barangay, of which, if the lines are to be the basis, there are many. The PNP Officers then gatecrashed to ask for the names of the volunteers, take their pictures without their consent, ask for the names of organizers and even asked for their contact details, all privileged private information,” they related.
“We condemn these actions of the PNP. It is not illegal to feed our fellow Estanciahanons.
It is not illegal to distribute food in Estancia. Our leaders broke no law in organizing a community kitchen in Estancia. It must be remembered that community pantry organizers in Iloilo City were red-tagged to which Iloilo City Mayor JPT responded by calling it ‘scary tactics that should not be tolerated in a democratic system of government,’” they further said.
“We call on all Estanciahanon Youth to remain vigilant and keep helping the poorest of the poor, to continue in our Filipino and Christian duties of serving the people, particularly the hungry.”
Support and donations
Many came out to support IPT’s community pantry effort. Iloilo City mayor Jerry P. Treñas spoke against red-tagging and encouraged the pantry organizers. He also made donations of bread to the pantry.
The Commission on Human Rights Western Visayas office released a statement on 21 April: “Ginadayaw sang CHR ang effort sang community pantry agud makabulig sa mga pigado subong nga may Covid-19 pandemic (CHR commends the community pantry’s effort to help the victims of the current Covid-19 pandemic).”
“Apang nangin masubo lang bangud ang community pantry gingamit agud iangut sa CPP-NPA ukon sa red tagging kag profiling (It is unfortunate only that the community pantry is being linked to the CPP-NPA or subjected to red-tagging and profiling),” they added. “Nagalaum ang CHR nga makit-an sang gobierno ang pagpaninguha sang tanan kag dapat dayawon sa baylo nga pakalainun (The CHR hopes that the government will see everyone’s efforts and that they should be commended instead of being discriminated against).”
Private individuals and groups also stood up to support and gave donations.
“We have also felt the love of this city by ensuring that we operate without harassment and impediment. The love of many donors many of whom are even strangers to us. We are humbled by their trust and we can only pay forward with sincere service to the people,” Inoceto enthused.
Aside from donations of money and food, other essential items were donated such as books.
The Books4Books and the West Visayas State University English Majors’ Organization began asking for book donations which will be distributed to community pantries including IPT’s.
Aside from the one in La Paz, IPT and one of their networks also set up community pantries in other areas.
“Due to community request that we also serve other areas with our community pantry, we had it at Bolilao, Mandurriao, Bakhaw side, right in front of Iloilo’s NATO and Helen Native and Seafoods Restaurant,” said Inoceto.
Community pantries were set up in Tabuc, Suba, in the district of Jaro, on 27 April and in Bitoon, also in Jaro, on 28 April in partnership with Kadamay. Another was set up in the town of Leganes, about 10 kilometers north of Iloilo City, in collaboration with Amihan-Leganes.
In 24 April episode of online talk series “Pride and Proud Asia” titled “Jumanogibs and Gumetlakchi: The Community Pantry Movement,” held by the Philippine LGBT Chamber of Commerce, Ana Patricia Non, who started the effort on 14 April on 96 Maginhawa Street in Teachers’ Village East, Quezon City, and inspired a movement, made an appearance. She acknowledged and profusely thanked the LGBTQ+ community for being the first supporters of the Maginhawa community pantry.
The LGBTQ+ community has always made significant contributions to society but they are being unacknowledged and even erased through out history.
Aimed at helping disenfranchised and underprivileged people get through the lockdowns and the pandemic, the IPT’s community pantry started on 20 April in collaboration with youth/student and advocacy groups and businesses including Gabriela Panay-Guimaras, Arts and Sciences Society of English Majors, Tulong Kabataan Western Visayas, the College of Arts and Sciences Student Council of the University of the Philippines (UP) Visayas, Katilingban ng mga Aktibong Kabataan Para sa Bayan, #TalkAlley, UP Sakdag, UP Hamili Brotherhood and UP Hamilia Sisterhood, West Visayas State University Political Science Students’ Organization, Hatag Ta Iloilo, UP Visayas Student Council, MacKape by M Sisters, Bioderm, and Adulting Iloilo.
For Inoceto, the community pantry is a way of helping as well as statement.
“Stand proud as you all have stood up against the ineptitude of this administration. We have also educated people on the values of ‘Magkuha santo sa kinahanglan, maghatag santo sa ikasarang,’” she stated.