Karapatan: PNP, NTF-ELCAC attempts to hijack community pantries are “cheap PR stunts”

Human rights watchdog Karapatan asserted that the Philippine National Police’s (PNP) plan to explicitly use “planted beneficiary civilians” for their own version of community pantries is “a laughable admission of the PNP’s tanim-ebidensiya modus, even in what are supposed to be relief efforts” especially since the PNP’s proposed project is explicitly in compliance with directives from the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC).

“After profiling, harassing, red-tagging, and outright demonizing community pantries and their organizers, the NTF-ELCAC and the PNP are now insidiously attempting to hijack mutual aid initiatives by setting up their own ‘community’ pantries and ‘feeding programs’ with ‘planted’ beneficiaries. Clearly, these directives show that the PNP’s program is nothing more than a cheap PR stunt to salvage the NTF-ELCAC’s image amid growing calls to defund it,” Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay stated.

In a memorandum dated April 21, 2021, the PNP Police Regional Office 10 reportedly circulated a project brief for “BARANGAYanihan,” a Police-Community Relations Activity “[i]nspired by the Maginhawa Community Pantry” drafted in compliance with Executive Order No. 70. Among the project’s proposed activities was to set up kitchens to serve breakfast lugaw in barangays and using “planted beneficiary civilians” who would take and upload pictures of the activities “to manifest [the] community’s appreciation.”

In a phone call interview with PhilStar.com yesterday, April 27, 2021 PNP Spokesperson Police Brig. Gen. Ronnie Olay claimed that the project brief’s proposal to utilize “planted beneficiary civilians” was “probably a wrong choice of words,” but Palabay averred that “there is clearly no other way to interpret this but the PNP honoring its time-honed tradition of planting evidence in their activities and operations that even directives for their so-called community relations activities involve such deception.”

“That this project brief was made to comply under Executive Order No. 70, which created the NTF-ELCAC and institutionalized its ‘whole-of-nation approach,’ shows how far the Duterte regime is willing to go in its deceptive counterinsurgency propaganda that even mutual aid initiatives such as community pantries are being hijacked — even weaponized — by the NTF-ELCAC while red-tagging and discrediting the initiatives led by mass organizations and even ordinary individuals,” the Karapatan official said.

She continued that the Lorraine Badoy and Antonio Parlade Jr.’s red-tagging of community pantries, such as claiming that these initiatives are being used to sow “hate and mistrust” towards the government, “is a tacit admission that people, in fact, have the right and valid reasons to be indignant towards a government that has criminally neglected the people’s welfare and left them in hunger — and these initiatives are clearly a response to the government’s criminal neglect.”

“Genuine community pantries uphold the bayanihan spirit through solidarity and mutual aid, where communities organize themselves to collectively sustain and assert their needs and welfare; instead, the government is more interested in funding cheap PR stunts and intimidating communities through red-tagging than heeding their demands and providing adequate government aid to households and communities who are bearing the brunt of its botched response to the pandemic,” Palabay added.

“Moreover, ordering the likes of Parlade and Badoy to cease from red-tagging community pantries is not enough: they should be fired from their posts, and the NTF-ELCAC should be defunded or abolished so that its funds can be rechanneled to provide basic social services and adequate government aid to families, households, and communities amid this crisis rather than using the people’s money for deception and State terrorism,” the Karapatan official ended.