DOJ: Law enforcers should not interrogate community pantry organizers

The Department of Justice (DOJ) on Tuesday believed that it was not right for law enforcement agencies to simply interrogate volunteers of community pantries in the country.

Such a pantry is an initiative that distributes free vegetables, food, and supplies to people in need. It is also open to donations.

According to Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra, the organizers should not conduct interrogation unless there is a violation of a law or ordinance.

“Suffice it to say that a person voluntarily doing an act of kindness and compassion toward his neighbor should be left alone,” said Guevarra.

“It is not proper for law enforcement agents to interrogate him unless there is reason to believe that he is violating any law, ordinance, rule or regulation for the good or welfare of the community,” he added.

Tuesday morning when Ana Patricia Non, the pioneer organizer of the community pantry in , Quezon City, said that there were members of the police asking for her contact number and asking what her organization was.

DOJ: Law enforcers should not interrogate community pantry organizers

The “red-tagging” is also said to be the reason for the temporary closure of the community pantry in Maginhawa, which is home to hundreds of residents who are living in poverty during the pandemic.

“Organizers of community pantries have no legal duty nor are under any compulsion to fill out any forms, as these are not considered , much less illegal activities. so the presence of lawyers at the sites, in my opinion, is unnecessary,” Guevarra added.

The DOJ secretary did not directly answer the question of whether there was a violation of an individual’s right to privacy by the police answering the forms they provide to those behind community pantries.

“I will not answer your question directly as I may prejudge an actual case that may come before the DOJ,” he said.

Interior Secretary Eduardo Año stressed that his agency has not ordered anything in relation to questioning community pantries, but he reminded the organizers to follow the minimum health protocol against COVID-19.