February 9, 2023

The community pantry started as a small shop in an aisle along Maginhawa St., Quezon City, fostering the self-help idea of providing the basic needs of the poorest of the poor during this critical moment, but the noble intention of allowing people to have an access to “get what they need and to give what they can.”
The adage itself is self-explanatory yet dubious since it is easily associated with the communist ideology of equitably giving by your means and taking by your want. No wonder, the community pantry shop was subjected to “red-tagging” by the military. However, after much ado about the nobility of the idea, the communist pantry was left on its own. Then, like the virus that it seeks to defeat, it multiplied exponentially. Today, the community pantry can be found everywhere in the Philippines. Is this good? Think again.
The idea of giving to the common tao what they need for the day goes beyond charity. It is the responsibility of each and every one who has the means to help those who have nothing. They are aplenty among us. Thus, it is not unexpected or unforeseeable that in any community pantry shop that is set up, the line of people who want to avail of what it offers will surely be long and unending. It attracts a crowd of unmanageable proportion.
When the government has placed restrictions on the movement of the populace, it was bound to happen that the threshold of poverty increased. Whatever programs there might be, whether public or private, that ease the burden of the hungry, will be swamped upon like bees unto a honey.
This is where the problem lies. In the process of lining up to avail of their daily ration of food and water, the basic protocols on social distancing is easily breached. In some instances, the intended beneficiaries, due to impatience and lack of discipline, jockey among themselves and in the process, fail to observe safety measure. Some drop their masks due to heat and exhaustion, talking incessantly among themselves, as if their safety means nothing. It is not a sight to behold or an ideal place to be. It is equipped with all the elements of a super spreader.
Yet, when the government intervened by requiring the organizers to properly coordinate with authorities under the threat that failure to do so will mean closure, it was ridiculed and maligned. It was branded as politicizing the activity and interfering with the right of the people to survive. Really?
There is no question about the importance of the community pantries. It is a demonstration of the bayanihan spirit at its best. The government has no right to intervene in the social activity that is most beneficial to our people. However, it is as much the responsibility of the government to protect the health and safety of every individual under the principle of parens patria. Hence, while community pantries must operate with the least government intervention, it, too, must comply with the basic protocols. Without government assistance, it is impossible for the private organizers to abide with the minimum protocols, especially with the character of the people they have to deal with. The only way is to allow the government to police its ranks. That is not intervention. That is concern.
The very purpose of the community pantry is to give help and ease the burden of those who are affected by the pandemic. To give them hope that Filipinos care for each other. Why, even Jesus Christ would have marveled with this idea.
But, to do so, each and every one must be safe lest, the evil sought to be avoided will be the same evil that will be created.
Remember, evil can spring from the desire to do good.

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