“Ang pork barrel ay isa lamang biik, ang dapat na mawala ay ang inahin kasi kung hindi…manganganak lang ito ng manganganak [The congressional pork barrel fund could be compared to a mere piglet, but the President’s fund is the sow that will keep giving birth to offspring].” – Leonor Briones, former national treasurer
By RONALYN V .OLEA
MANILA — People from all walks of life flocked to the EDSA Shrine, Sept. 11 to demand anew the scrapping of the pork barrel system.
Bishop Deogracias Iñiguez led the celebration of the Holy Mass inside the chapel at 12 noon. An interfaith prayer followed suit outside the Catholic chapel.
“Corruption has become systemic. It has become part of the political culture and this is our greatest challenge–the change of heart of our government leaders,” Iñiguez, co-chairman of the Ecumenical Bishops Forum (EBF), said during the Edsa Tayo prayer vigil.
In her speech, former national treasurer Leonor Briones said all lump sum allocations must be scrapped.
“Ang pork barrel ay isa lamang biik, ang dapat na mawala ay ang inahin kasi kung hindi…manganganak lang ito ng manganganak [The congressional pork barrel fund could be compared to a mere piglet, but the President’s fund is the sow that will keep giving birth to offspring],” Briones said, referring to the President’s P310-billion ($7.01 billion) Special Purpose Funds in the proposed 2014 national budget.
Of the more than P2.268-trillion ($51.545 billion) proposed budget for next year, P1.3 trillion ($29.545 billion) is allocated for the President’s lump-sum funds in the national budget, including the Special Purpose Funds (SPFs) worth P310 billion ($7.01 billion).
“We have a huge budget but many Filipinos are still poor,” Briones, lead convener of Social Watch Philippines, said in Filipino. She said the Special Purpose Funds should be given directly to line agencies, which, she said, are audited and “accountable on a yearly basis.”
Briones explained that Special Purpose Funds is the last to be audited, citing that the last audit was released in 2009.
In a separate statement, Briones said, “The President is called upon to exercise greater magnanimity in the exercise of the authority of the Executive to transfer and dispense public funds, including the rule-based and just disbursement of funds directly appropriated to the Office of the President itself and agencies directly attached to it, including the use of the President’s Social Fund, the Malampaya Fund and similar pork barrel funds,” Briones said.
The Malampaya funds consist of royalty payments of Caltex and Shell to the Philippines for extracting natural gas in Malampaya near the province of Palawan. Since 2002, the government has collected a total of P173 billion ($3.91 billion) from the Malampaya consortium. Earlier, Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Javier Colmenares called on the Commission on Audit to investigate the spending of the Malampaya fund.
Asked by Edsa Tayo organizer Junep Ocampo regarding her stance on the pork barrel of local executives, Briones said all must go. “Even the huge intelligence funds must be abolished,” she said.
Fr. Joe Dizon of #abolishpork Movement who led the interfaith prayer called on the public to join all forms of protest actions against the pork barrel system. “The truth of the matter is that the pork barrel is still in the 2013 and proposed 2014 budget. All we have so far are promises that the Priority Development Assistance Fund will be remained and itemized but still allocated at P70 million per congressman and P200 million per senator. The presidential pork is not being touched at all,” Dizon said.
Dizon said that while they welcome the issuance of a temporary restraining order (TRO) by the Supreme Court on the remaining 2013 congressional pork barrel, they proposed permanent abolition of all pork. The Supreme Court TRO is a message to the President and Congress that they should give up the pork now,” he said.
More groups against pork
The Ecumenical Bishops Forum, in a statement released today, challenged President Benigno Aquino III to scrap his own pork.
“…we also refer to the Presidential pork, those billions of lump sum provisions for contingencies which are within the discretion and at the disposal of one person, namely the President. In order for his “walang corrupt, walang mahirap” and “daang matuwid” slogans to be credible, the change must start from his office,” the EBF, a loose coalition of Catholic and Protestant bishops, said.
In a related development, the presidents of three prestigious universities issued a joint statement condemning “the misuse of public funds by unscrupulous government officials and their conniving associates.”
“We stand in unity with a keen desire to end the deeply entrenched culture of graft, corruption and patronage in our political system,” Jose Ramon T. Villarin, president of the Ateneo de Manila University, SCRosario O. Lapus, president of the Miriam College, and Alfredo Pascual, president of the University of the Philippines, said.
“We assert that accountability, transparency and other principles of good governance require not only the prudent use of discretionary funds but also the assurance that public funds are used for the genuine needs of our people,” they said.
The presidents of the three universities called on national leaders from the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of government to “re-examine the use of discretion in the allocation and use of public funds, to probe into the deeper roots of the pork barrel scam, and to address in particular the culture of corruption that destroys our selves and our communities, especially the poor.”
They also called on the Ombudsman, Sandiganbayan, Civil Service Commission, Commission on Audit, Department of Justice, and the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee to expedite their investigations and immediately file the appropriate cases against public officials involved in corruption. They also expressed support to the call for greater re-channeling of public funds to basic social services, particularly education and health care.
Students of the three universities staged a noise barrage this afternoon along Katipunan Avenue.
Next action: Sept. 13
Participants to the Edsa Tayo prayer vigil announced they would join the September 13 action at the Rizal (formerly Luneta) Park in Manila.
The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines – Episcopal Commission on Youth and the National Secretariat for Youth and the Kalipunan ng Kristiyanong Kabataan sa Pilipinas said they will mobilize youth from parishes and schools on September 13.
Earlier, the Catholic Educational Association of the Philippines (CEAP) issued a memorandum inviting its member schools to join the rally.
Organized by the #abolishporkMovement, the Sept. 13 action will begin with an interfaith service and will feature cultural presentations.
“We demand the abolition of the pork barrel system and the direct allocation of taxpayers’ money and other public funds to public hospitals, schools, public housing and other social services. We must remove the discretionary power of individual politicians and government officials over such funds for greater transparency and accountability,” #abolishporkMovement said.