Community pantries should uplift PH, not demean gov’t efforts

By Filane Mikee Cervantes

May 20, 2021, 1:35 pm

<p>NTF-ELCAC spokesperson Undersecretary Severo Catura <em>(PNA file photo)</em></p>

NTF-ELCAC spokesperson Undersecretary Severo Catura (PNA file photo)

MANILA – A spokesperson of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) has lamented that the Filipino “bayanihan” (working together) spirit has been used for political ends and “bastardized” by some groups.

During Wednesday’s hearing of the House Committee on Human Rights on the emergence of community pantries, NTF-ELCAC spokesperson, Undersecretary Severo Catura, said that while he welcomes such initiative for people participating in the campaign to uplift the daily struggle of the poor, he lamented that critics chose to show the government on a bad light.

“The government is saddened that the Filipinos’ capacity of overextending kindness and generosity exemplified in the bayanihan has been used for political ends by some groups,” said Catura, who is also Executive Director of the Presidential Human Rights Committee Secretariat.

"The reason they're doing this is because they're telling people that our government is palpak (a failure) and is incapable of addressing our people's needs in the time of the pandemic, and questions this government's moral ascendancy to remain in authority.”

He said community pantries may be new, but the concept is not, as similar activities have been organized several times over, like community grocery, feeding programs, kindness kitchens, food banks, parish outreach missions, and social service for the poor that have been in operation long before the Covid-19 pandemic.

Such activities were done without fanfare, in an orderly fashion, without media hype, and “most importantly, without any hint at a demeaning government for alleged failure in governance”, Catura said.

“The much-loved Filipino virtue of bayanihan has been so bastardized that, as a serious human rights advocate, I can only deem this act as an affront and insult to Filipino culture,” he said.

He believes that in the context of promoting economic, social, and cultural rights, the community pantry does not contribute at all in promoting the general welfare of society and must be addressed accordingly.

“The Philippine government welcomes all support from all sectors in society in the campaign to uplift the lives of the people in these difficult times, so long as such support reinforces the beauty of the Filipino’s bayanihan spirit, does not use and abuse the same for some political ends, or use the same to blame and shame the government and the Filipinos in general before the international community,” he said.

He said such initiatives should not “foment hatred or distrust” against anyone, any group, or the government.

Catura said the government has been conducting its own version of community pantries in marginalized communities not only in relation to the pandemic, but also because of natural calamities last year. (PNA)