Less than a week after the Maginhawa Community Pantry was set up and brought on an explosion of other community pantries around the country, the people who kicked it off have been red-tagged, the pantry itself policed.
How did we get here?
A community pantry is as unthreatening as it can get. A community banding together to help each other out and provide essential goods to whoever may need it is the definition of kindness and civic-mindedness.
It’s important to note that the community pantry isn’t charity, but a form of mutual aid. Patricia Non said so herself to Inquirer. As mutual aid, it’s an act of solidarity, helping your community as much as you can despite any governmental setbacks. That’s what makes it so radical.
To an administration that espouses brutal violence as the right way to govern, why is kindness at this level threatening? It could be because it exposes the government’s ineptness and inability to actually cater to the needs of its citizenry. This form of mutual aid would not be necessary had there been enough assistance given to us.
In a third world country where at least 16.7 percent of the population was already underneath the (already fluffed up) poverty line pre-pandemic, aid is essential. But that didn’t happen, at least on a scale where it could make a difference. Aside from that, the government’s solution to a health crisis was bizarrely not to help its citizens and frontliners curb the spread of the disease by enforcing mass testing and raising the health budget, but to enforce even more policing (what, are they going to shoot the virus?). It’s a bad look all around, and having citizens take up the mantle of helping each other out just highlights the incompetency.
In short, they don’t want us helping each other because it makes them look bad.
This isn’t the first time people have been barred from doing mutual aid, and it wouldn’t be the last. Many activist groups were either barred or straight up arrested for trying to help communities during the pandemic (and LBR, even before that). For example, in April 2020, activists from Tulong Anakpawis, Sagip Kanayunan on their way to giving relief goods to citizens in Bulacan were apprehended and their goods confiscated by police. In May, 18 volunteers were arrested in Quezon City after distributing face shields and food, and then holding a protest.
Even though now politicians are seemingly supporting the concept of pantries, it looks more like lip service than anything else. Why would the Maginhawa community pantry have been policed in the first place? Why is Patricia Non still facing death threats and red-tagging attempts? It seems like they can’t openly decry it because of the backlash that they’ll face, especially this close to the elections.
That’s not even talking about the politicians capitalizing on this moment by setting up pantries with their names and faces attached to it, thoroughly missing the point. Cops have also attempted to start their own community pantry, but with dubious messaging (who could have predicted it? Shocker).
However, community pantries are continuing to thrive in spite of attempts to police it. Just yesterday, my brother sent me a photo of a community pantry in my hometown of Iligan City, which is in Northern Mindanao. Every day on my timeline I see different kinds of pantries opening up all over the country. As of today, April 22, there are 350, and now one in Timor Leste. It’s as if attempting to stifle people only emboldens them more, and what really radicalizes people to take action isn’t supposedly shadowy “communist” organizations but seeing injustice play out—and having enough of it. But what do I know? *eyerolls*