MANILA, Philippines – The act of profiling and collecting information of the organizers of community pantries all over the country is simply “an overreach and abuse of police power” more so a breach of privacy said Commission on Human Rights (CHR).
CHR spokesperson Jacqueline de Guia said that they are fully aware of the move taken by the Maginhawa group organizer Ana Patricia Non, who just suspended the food-distribution operation after being red-tagged by the police.
Non also reported police officers asking organizers to fill out some forms and quizzing them about their supposed connections and/or affiliations, linking them to some communist groups.
“In this context, we remind the government, particularly local law enforcement officers, that collecting data, including the affiliation of community pantry organizers, is an encroachment upon the right to privacy of citizens and represents yet again an overreach and abuse of police power bereft of any statutory or legal basis,” De Guia said in a statement.
“We echo the statement of National Privacy Commission Chairperson Raymund Liboro in calling for the prudent and lawful collection of data by the Philippine National Police,” she added.
De Guia said that the community pantry is an admirable move because it shows the people’s desire to stop the pandemic’s adverse effect.
“In times of uncertainty, Filipinos have come together to help one another to overcome adversity. The community pantry is an example of the exemplary spirit of Bayanihan to make up for the gaps of government action in addressing the long-term adverse effects of the pandemic,” she emphasized.
“The shameful and politicking actions of the few ideologically bent, however, has dimmed the hopes of many that have come to see the community pantries as means of sustenance to provide food for themselves and their families,” she added.
Netizens were appalled by the photos showing PNP allegedly trying to get data from the said organizers of the community pantry in Maginhawa.
But Director Brig. Gen. Leo Francisco of Manila Police District (MPD) denied that he had no order to profile the community pantry organizers. The police officers were sent only to ensure peace and order in the area and to enforce health protocols.
Non said that she fears over her and the volunteers’ safety after certain authorities red-tagged them all. She appealed for help from the Quezon City Mayor Belmonte and immediately asked QCPD to explain the profiling and allegations.
“Notably, these government social media pages have shared graphics on their accounts linking the community pantry initiatives to the communist movement,” De Guia said.
“Furthermore, the Commission welcomes the statement of Quezon City Mayor Belmonte assuring support for the community pantry and the safety of the organizers,” she also said.
“It the midst of despair, let not the actions of the few prevail. We must continue efforts to build trust between one another. In the end, let trust and peace among our communities prevail as we weather this pandemic,” she added.
CHR said Belmonte’s statement on the issue is a welcome development.
Reporting by: Ghelo Javier