MANILA – People are putting up community pantries not just because Filipinos are naturally helpful to others, but also understand that the government needs their support in assisting the poor, Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo said on Wednesday.
Panelo shrugged off fresh allegations that community pantries signify the Duterte government’s failure in responding to the economic impact of the pandemic, stressing that it was actually the opposite.
“‘Yun pong community pantry, ito ay kusang loob na pagtulong upang matulungan ang pamahalaan kasi alam nila sa ngayon dahil nga po ang ating ekonomiya ay bagsak, walang income na nage-generate (Community pantries are voluntary help to the government because they know that becomes our economy is shut down, there’s no income being generated),” he said in his online commentary show “Counterpoint”.
He said the prolonged lockdown which has led to the shutdown of many businesses would also reduce the government’s revenue collection.
“Pag walang income generation, ibig sabihin walang makakabayad ng buwis e pag walang buwis na ibabayad, saan kukuha ng pambayad ang gobyerno (If there’s no income generation, it means that people can’t pay taxes and if there are no taxes, where will the government get money)?” he added.
Panelo, meanwhile, reminded organizers to coordinate with their respective local government units (LGUs) to ensure that minimum health standards are implemented at all times.
Citing President Rodrigo Duterte, he said community pantries could be “super spreader” venues for Covid-19 infections.
“Dun siya nag-aalala. Sapagkat yung ginagawa niyong kabutihan ay lilikha ng malaking problema kung hindi kayo nagplano (That’s what he’s worried about because these good intentions could result in a huge problem if you did not plan properly),” he said.
Panelo recalled how actress Angel Locsin organized a community pantry activity in Barangay Holy Spirit, Quezon City which eventually resulted in the death of a 67-year-old male vendor with some attendees testing positive for Covid-19.
“Yung nangyari dun sa isang artista, hindi tayo magtataka kung maraming magkakasakit dun (What happened to that celebrity, we won’t be surprised if many get infected there),” he added.
National Task Force Against Covid-19 Special Adviser, Dr. Ted Herbosa, earlier said the recent conduct of mass gatherings like community pantries and political rallies could cause the number of cases to plateau and not continue with the downtrend.
“Tuloy ang pagbaba ng cases dahil sa ECQ pero dahil nag-mass gathering tayo, magpa-plateau iyan maiipit tayo sa 8,000, 9,000 imbes na bumaba to 6,000, 5,000 nalang (The cases continue to decrease due to the enhanced community quarantine but because of the mass gatherings these will plateau at 8,000, 9,000 instead of decreasing to 6,000, 5,000),” Herbosa said during an online media forum.
In a pre-recorded public address on Monday, Duterte discouraged Filipinos from “swarming” in community pantries to receive free food supplies, warning them that it increases the risk of Covid-19 infection.
“Ayaw ninyong maniwala, nagsabi na nga na mabuti pa mag-istambay ka na lang ng bahay. Alam mo hindi ito biro. ‘Pag tinamaan ka ng Covid, it’s kamatayan (You don’t want to believe me, I already said it’s better to stay home. You know, this is not a joke. If you contract Covid, it’s death),” he said.
He appealed to them to wait for government assistance to be delivered to their homes, assuring that officials are doing their best to provide despite the limited budget. (PNA)