President Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday asked the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) to stop making statements linking organizers of community pantries to the communist movement.
“I think the President has spoken through my office. The DILG (Department of Interior and Local Government) has spoken. Unless their concern is about health protocols being observed, they should leave these community pantries alone,” Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said in a virtual presser on Tuesday.
He noted that DILG Secretary Eduardo Año himself ordered police and local government officials not to interfere with operations of community pantries.
In a statement, Año said police and LGU interference should only be limited to ensuring that minimum health protocols are observed.
Año also denied allegations that his agency ordered police to look into community pantries across the country.
For his part, NTF-ELCAC spokesperson Lt. Gen. Antonio Parlade Jr. has denied red-tagging community pantry organizers but admitted that they are checking their backgrounds.
Parlade, however, expressed concern over how organizers of community pantries seem to be spreading “propaganda” about the government’s failure to address people’s needs.
Nonetheless, Duterte praised Filipinos who have organized community pantries across the country, as they are helping those affected by the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic, Malacañang said Tuesday.
Roque also reiterated that community pantries exemplify the best of the Filipino character in times of challenges.
“On the side of the President and the DILG, we are encouraging and praising citizens joining the work of community pantries,” he said in Filipino. “Our President really praises this initiative.”