Statement of the UP Diliman Chancellor on Community Pantries

Statement on Community Pantries
Fidel Nemenzo
Chancellor, UP Diliman

A year after it started, the COVID-19 pandemic continues to rage on in the country. Thousands of people are infected by the virus daily. Dozens are dying every day. At the same time, people are reeling fromunemployment or from the loss of their livelihood.  According to SWS, as of December 2020, one out of five Filipinos has been experiencing hunger. This figure has likely increased in recent weeks as a result of the
surge in COVID-19 infections.

Under these circumstances, we need all hands on deck. All of us should be striving to help and care for each other, especially for those who are less privileged and most in need.

This is why, along with many others, I welcome the proliferation of community pantries across the country, and I strongly condemn the “red-tagging” of those who run these pantries.

I particularly condemn the red-tagging of Ms. Ana Patricia Non, our alumna and graduate of the UPD College of Fine Arts, and Mr. Rene Principe, one of our faculty in the National Institute of Physics, who set up the first community pantries in Quezon City and Cagayan de Oro City. Their selfless initiative has mobilized Filipino citizens to help Filipino citizens who are hungry and impoverished, with a slogan that appeals to our best and most compassionate selves despite the hardest circumstances: to give what one is able; to take only what one needs.

Even in the best of circumstances, red-tagging is dangerous and counterproductive. It is a threat to our freedom of expression and it places people in harm’s way. Time and effort spent on red-tagging- especially of those providing food and other essential goods to people in need— is time and effort better spent on helping the Filipino people fight this pandemic, address their problems, and advance our country’s vaccination initiatives.

I express my wholehearted support and admiration for everyone who has set up community pantries across the country, and I urge members of the UP Diliman community to do their part to support these initiatives—whether by donating to them, repacking supplies for distribution, or helping out in their other tasks.

Ang pagtataguyod ng mga community pantries na ito ay pagsasabuhay lamang ng diwa ng bayanihan at damayan ng mga Pilipino. These pantries embody the time-honored humanitarian practice of coming to yourneighbor’s aid. They show us the value of citizen participation.

I also urge members of the UP Diliman community to continue to lend our expertise and skills in various fields to the government’s efforts to help people cope with and survive this pandemic.