CDO’s first community pantry closes after being red-tagged

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MindaNews / 21 April) – This city’s first community pantry closed its operations just three days since opening after the organizers were red-tagged by unknown persons.

The Kauswagan community pantry in Cagayan de Oro City. Screengrabbed from a video on Rene Principe’s Facebook page

Organizers of the pantry in Zone 4, Sitio Pasil, Barangay Kauswagan led by Rene Principe Jr. found a poster displayed at the pantry site accusing them of being communist rebels, according to lawyer Ernesto Neri.

Neri, a friend of Principe, said the organizers also found that the unknown persons have distributed leaflets in the neighborhood.

Archbishop Emeritus Antonio Ledesma was quick to defend the organizers, saying that communities need more food pantries to help its poor and needy in these hard times of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Red-tagging offers no food nor solution,” he stressed.

Archbishop Jose Cabantan said the Archdiocese of Cagayan de Oro will open its own community pantry at the San Antonio de Padua parish church in Barangay Nazareth on Thursday.

Padayon ta sa pagtubag sa hagit sa atong pagtoo, pagpadayag sa atong pag inambitay” (Let us continue to respond to the challenge of our faith, expressing our efforts at sharing), Cabantan said.

Neri told MindaNews the organizers have relayed the red-tagging attempts to him.

“The poster is too familiar. It contains photo-grabbed pictures of the volunteers with arrows pointing them as members of the Communist Party and supporters of the armed struggle,” Neri said in his post on Facebook where he announced that the organizers decided to “suspend” the pantry.

Efforts By MindaNews to reach Principe and the other organizers failed. Text messages and Messenger notes sent to him went unanswered late Wednesday afternoon.

Neri said he was told the organizers got so scared that they do not want to talk to journalists.

“This harassment should stop. It is not a crime to organize your community to help the vulnerable and the poor,” Neri said

Deputy House Speaker Rufus Rodriguez (2nd District, Cagayan de Oro) denounced those responsible for red-tagging the organizers of the Kauswagan pantry.

“They should even be commended. Their act of generosity is no crime,” he told MindaNews.

At least five community pantries have opened up in last three days in Cagayan de Oro fueled by acts of generosity by Ana Patricia Non in Maginhawa, Quezon City.

Non also closed down her pantry for a day, on Tuesday, after she was reportedly red-tagged by the Quezon City Police District and the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC). But the Maginhawa Community Pantry reopened Wednesday.

The red-tagging did not deter others to open their own community pantries to help the needy.

Retired Mindanao State University professor Cecile Mambuay and her daughter Khal Campong also opened a community pantry in front of their restaurant Babu Kwan in Barangay 32 here.

“In whatever means we can help our brothers and sisters, let’s do it now while we still can,” Mambuay said.

In nearby Opol town, Misamis Oriental, a community pantry supported by big farms has opened in Zone 3, Poblacion on Wednesday. (Froilan Gallardo / MindaNews)