May 19, 2021
(1st UPDATE) The government’s anti-communist insurgency task force says concerned citizens first alerted them about a photo of Patricia Non with a raised fist
In another attempt to question the background of Maginhawa Community Pantry’s Patricia Non, the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) said it was concerned over a photo of her raising a clenched fist.
During a hearing on community pantries led by the House committee on human rights on Wednesday, May 19, Undersecretary Severo Catura, one of the new spokespersons of the NTF-ELCAC, claimed there were civilians who questioned Non’s photo.
“Tao po ang nagreklamo, hindi gobyerno…. Ni-raise nila ang issue na tumaas ang kamao (It was the people, not the government, who raised the issue on a photo of her raising her fist in the air),” said Catura said, an undersecretary for the Presidential Human Rights Committee Secretariat. He represented fellow spokesperson Lorraine Badoy, who missed the House hearing because of an activity in Davao Del Norte.
The comment did not sit well with Kabataan Representative Sarah Elago, who called out Catura for his remarks.
“Malaya po ang ating kababayan as long as hindi gumagawa ng krimen. Dahil lang may litrato siya na nakataas-kamao, ibig sabihin ba natin na binibigyan natin ng katwiran [ang red-tagging]?” Elago said.
(Our countrymen are free to raise their fist in the air as long as they are not committing a crime. Do we justify red-tagging just because Non has a photo of her with her fist raised in the air?)
When Elago further pressed the NTF-ELCAC on the red-baiting of community pantries, Remulla chimed in and said “aiding and abetting to rebellion is a crime also.”
“May mga tao na may ibang adhikain diyan sa community pantry na mayroon talagang koneksyon para pabagsakin ang gobyerno (Some people have different goals for community pantries which are connected to efforts to overthrow the government),” Remulla said.
Elago told Remulla that the courts are the proper avenue for such claims.
‘Overreaction’ instead of encouragement
During the hearing, Agusan del Norte 1st District Representative Lawrence Fortun came to the defense of community pantries, saying they would not have existed if people affected by the pandemic had enough food provisions.
Fortun said that the “beauty” of the community pantry movement is that such a “little initiative” inspired many people across the country and “showed the capacity of the Filipino to step up during crisis and help other people.”
He asked the NTF-ELCAC for the number community pantries in the country that the task force said supposedly used the initiative to “demean the government for its failures.”
“We should be very careful in messaging,” Fortun said, referring to the NTF-ELCAC’s general statements against community pantries.
He noted that instead of encouraging community pantries, the NTF-ELCAC’s “overreaction” caused some community pantries to suspend operations.
State forces ‘just doing their job’
The Philippine National Police Human Rights Affairs Office (PNP HRAO) for its part said there was no order from the top to profile community pantry organizers.
“Iyong mga pagtatanong po ng ating pulis na nagpapatrol sa kalsada, sila po ay may katungkulan na alamin ang anumang aktibidad sa kanilang area of responsibility (It is the police’s responsibility to ask questions on any activity in their area of responsibility),” said Police Brigadier General Vincent Calanoga, chief of the PNP HRAO.
Parlade also called out news outfits, including Rappler, for supposedly making a false claim that he admitted to “profiling” community organizers, even though the red-tagging activities of the NTF-ELCAC have been thoroughly documented.
Rappler’s report on April 20, 2021 quoted Parlade as saying, “Alam mo, tsine-check. Marami doon eh. Ilan ba iyang naka-post sa social media? So we’re just checking ‘yung background ng mga ‘to (You know, they’re being checked. There’s a lot among them. How many were posted on social media? So we’re just checking the background of these people).”
On Wednesday, he vehemently denied the NTF-ELCAC’s activities were tantamount to red-tagging.
“In one of my interviews, I was asked ‘Bakit ‘nyo nire-red-tag itong mga grupong ito? (Why do you red-tag these groups)’ I said, ‘No, we don’t red-tag them,’” he said, arguing that the NTF-ELCAC was just merely reminding people to be careful about community pantries.
Consequences of red-tagging
Despite the government’s efforts to defend itself against red-baiting allegations, the experiences of community pantry organizers speak for themselves.
Non had to pause her operations for a day in April amid fears for her volunteers’ safety. Some pantries were also forced to cease operations due to alleged police profiling.
Parlade already drew the wrath of senators, who censured him in April after he called lawmakers stupid for seeking to defund the NTF-ELCAC.
National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr also issued a gag order against him after red-tagging community pantries.
However, the government’s refusal to remove him from NTF-ELCAC has disappointed critics, including Senator Panfilo Lacson, who said it was arrogant for the task force to retain Parlade as spokesperson. — Rappler.com