Mutual aid, community pantries bring out the best in Filipinos and the worst in Duterte’s inhumane regime

Around the country, some 100 community pantries and other forms of mutual aid have been set-up in cities and town centers by ordinary citizens to help fellow Filipinos to make ends meet during this difficult time of Covid-19’s continuing rampage on people’s lives and livelihood. These have once again put the US-Duterte regime’s inhumanity front and center, especially following the Philippine National Police’s fascist treatment of the organizers of the initiatives.

Mutual aid, such as community pantries, are highly commendable and a mark of the Filipino people’s selflessness and beneficence. Common folk, like vegetable farmers, fisherfolk, workers, small business owners, low-paid professionals, and students, donated rice, vegetables, fish and other food stuff and distributed them freely to residents in their respective communities.

In their own way, they are also acts of condemnation against the US-Duterte regime’s ineptitude and insensitivity, made starker in the year-long criminal negligence of bungled response to the pandemic.

Signages and banners in front of these mutual aid initiatives, such as “magbigay ayon sa kakayahan, kumuha batay sa pangangailangan,” bear the unmistakable mark of denunciation of the reactionary regime’s neoliberal policy. This principle is a far cry from Duterte’s corrupt and militarist frame of governance, which prioritizes military spending over health, education and social safety nets, over-reliance on foreign loans to accommodate imperialist economic aggression and local cronies and line the pockets of its corrupt bureaucracy and armed minions.

In the few days that the mutual aid initiatives gained popular support, Duterte’s fascist PNP swiftly took notice, in keeping with their default action that anything resembling justice or common decency is at best highly suspect, and at worst initiated by the revolutionary movement. Organizers, donors and civilians supporting community pantries were quickly harassed and red-tagged, coerced to submit to profiling and interrogation. State propaganda machinery and paid hacks of the regime in characteristic fashion tried in vain to hijack and skew public opinion.

Having borne the brunt of the economic downturn, ordinary Filipinos who organize these initiatives, especially the basic masses, understand the value of honest work and mutual cooperation, both foreign concepts to Duterte and his ilk. They are likewise well aware of the limitations of these mutual aid initiatives, and are therefore quick to decry the immoral irony of a government awashed in resources but chooses not to provide for its citizens and instead criminalizes those who do.

Meanwhile, in numerous barrios in base areas and guerilla zones in the region, Lumad and peasant masses have earlier made similar undertakings in order to help each other during last year’s early onslaught of the pandemic. Simple cooperation during planting and harvest season while eschewing usual wages, trading produce, poultry and livestock or freely giving surplus harvests to neighbors have become even more prevalent, especially during the strict lockdowns. These will steadily flourish, as they have before the pandemic, because they are guided by organs of political power or revolutionary organizations.

We urge all Filipinos to continue to defy the US-Duterte regime’s contempt for tyranny, fascism, and basic humanity by undertaking more and other forms of mutual aid initiatives, alongside bigger and more militant protest actions to hold the regime accountable for its crimes against the people.

Mutual aid, community pantries bring out the best in Filipinos and the worst in Duterte's inhumane regime