“Women and their families have long been burdened by high prices resulting from regressive taxes such as the E-VAT while the President and legislators have been misusing and abusing the people’s money.” – Gabriela
By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
MANILA – Students, mothers from different communities, women and children’s organizations pressed the government to abolish the pork barrel system, including the president’s pork barrel funds, in a Women Chain Against the Pork Barrel System along Taft Avenue in Manila on Wednesday, Sept. 18.
Carrying banners calling for the abolition of the pork barrel system and to “Prosecute all involved in pork barrel corruption,” the women chain, which was led by an all women alliance against corruption Babala or Babae Laban sa Katiwalian (Women Against Corruption), was formed from the Manila City Hall to the Philippine Normal University (PNU). The groups held a noise barrage and a short program. Cars passing along Taft Avenue blew their horns showing their support for the protest action.
Women’s group Gabriela, the Center for Women’s Resources, Salinlahi Alliance for Children’s Concerns, and Lila Filipina, an organization of comfort women during the Japanese occupation, joined the women chain.
The groups demanded that pork barrel and other discretionary funds be allocated to social services. Gabriela also renewed its call to scrap the Expanded Value Added Tax (E-VAT) on basic services and utilities such as oil, electricity and water, as well as food and medicines.
According to the group, the existence of trillions of pesos in pork barrel funds under the administration of President Benigno S. Aquino III proves that the government has more than enough funds to cover social services without adding to the burden of the people with the exaction of the E-VAT on basic commodities and utilities.
“Women and their families have long been burdened by high prices resulting from regressive taxes such as the E-VAT while the President and legislators have been misusing and abusing the people’s money,” said Joms Salvador, secretary general of Gabriela.
Salvador said instead of allotting as Presidential pork barrel funds, revenues from the Philippine Gaming Corporation (Pagcor) and the Philippine Charity Sweepstake Office, these could be used to replace the E-VAT. She added that revenues from the Malampaya royalties being paid by oil companies could be used to develop a national oil industry, thus reducing the need to import oil, which would eventually result In the lowering of oil prices.
“The bottom line is, scrap the pork barrel and use the money for purposes that will directly benefit the people. Whether for social services or as an alternative to E-VAT, the funds allotted for the pork barrel, especially that of the President’s, will be put to better use than for patronage politics and corruption,” Salvador added.
The women chain event is a build up activity for the next big protest action against the pork barrel on Sept. 21, Saturday also to be held in Luneta.
“The demand of the people is clear: abolish the rotten pork barrel not just the Priority Development Assistance Funds (PDAF), because corruption of public funds is much bigger in the executive branch with its trillions of pesos in pork funds, including off-budget funds that are being spent based solely on the discretion of the President,” said Gabriela Women’s Party (GWP) Rep. Emmi De Jesus.
De Jesus also challenged current and past officials accused by the Department of Justice (DOJ) with plunder on allegations of pocketing public funds from their Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), to reveal the extent of corruption in Congress, the Senate up to the Malacañang Palace.
“Filipinos continue to wallow in poverty, many are homeless and jobless, and yet the funds allotted to subsidize basic needs and services have been pocketed by corrupt officials. It is imperative that they tell the people the entire truth.”
The group also called on the public to join the Sept. 21 rally to express their disgust over the corruption in the Aquino government.
“The pork barrel funds that are being misused by corrupt public officials are the people’s money; it is only right that these funds are spent for the people’s welfare. We want the abolition of the pork barrel system, including the President’s pork that he uses under his discretion. Put the public funds to social services,” Lean Flores of Gabriela NCR said.