MANILA — Malacañang on Sunday warned against the pilfering of relief goods intended for families affected by the crisis brought about by coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19).
In a press statement, Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said the Palace condemns in the “strongest terms” the alleged robbing of relief goods by New People’s Army (NPA) members in Eastern Samar and Masbate.
Panelo said authorities would go after those who will take advantage amid the Covid-19 pandemic in the country.
“Resorting to force or duress is unconscionable, especially given the national crisis we are in,” he said. “Should they persist in their anti-nationalistic and unchristian acts, the constituted authorities shall repulse them at every turn.”
The statement came following reports that NPA guerrillas purportedly snatched food packs from Guinmaayohan village officials in Balangiga, Eastern Samar on Tuesday.
It was also reported that the distribution of relief goods in Aroroy town in Masbate was disrupted on Friday after NPA rebels allegedly attacked the government troops.
Don’t add to burden
In a virtual presser aired on state-run PTV-4, Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles said the executive department has yet to receive reports about the looting incidents.
Nograles, nevertheless, said it was unacceptable to steal the relief goods that would be distributed to families affected by Covid-19 outbreak.
“‘Yung pag-agaw ng relief goods, pinagbabawal po iyan. Hindi po pupwedeng gawin ang pang-aagaw. Syempre, dini-distribute po iyan, at ang pagdi-distribute ng pamahalaan ay para sa mga may pangangailangan (Stealing relief goods is prohibited. You cannot do that. That’s being distributed by the government to those who are in need),” he said.
As the country’s fight against Covid-19 continues, Panelo called on NPA insurgents to stop committing lawless acts.
“In this time of state of calamity and public health emergency, we call on those operating outside of the law not to add burden to the very people they professed to fight for,” he said.
Ask for help
Panelo said that while the government is ready to provide assistance to needy people, such relief cannot be claimed through “violence or threats.”
He made the remarks as he acknowledged that NPA members may also be in need of food or other basic commodities for their survival.
Nograles said members of the NPA can ask for government’s assistance instead of stealing the relief goods.
“Hindi po dapat makipag-agawan diyan. At kung tayo naman po ay talagang qualified na makatanggap dapat mapaabot sa inyo ang tulong (There’s no need to pilfer relief goods. You will receive assistance if you are qualified),” Nograles said.
Amid the health crisis, Nograles ensured the government will help all individuals who are in need.
“Wala po tayong kinakampihan. Lahat ng Pilipino na gusto nating tulungan at nangangailangan ng tulong ay dapat tulungan (We don’t take sides. All Filipinos who deserve to get help will receive assistance),” he said.
No looting incident
The NPA’s actions came even after President Rodrigo Duterte and the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) declared a ceasefire until April 15 as the country fights Covid-19 pandemic.
However, Samar-based Eastern Samar News Service (ESTE) News reported that officials of Balangiga, Samar denied that NPA rebels snatched relief packs for the needy families
Balangiga Mayor Randy Graza, as quoted by ESTE News, said his office has not received reports about the alleged looting incident.
In a Facebook post on Friday, Municipal Disaster Risk Reduction Management officer Judith Alde refuted the allegation, stressing that there was a “peaceful” distribution of relief goods in Guinmaayohan village.
The government continues to address Covid-19 outbreak by imposing several measures, which include the implementation of enhanced community quarantine in the entire Luzon and other areas in Visayas and Mindanao.
Around 4,648 people in the Philippines have already contracted Covid-19.
Some 297 Covid-19 patients have died, while 197 others have recovered from the infectious disease. (PNA)