“The protest action is meant to call on the people to persevere in the fight against the monsters of corruption.” – Artista Kontra Korupsyon
By JANESS ANN J. ELLAO
MANILA — Dressed in colorful costumes inspired by mythical creatures, members of progressive groups marched from Raha Sulaiman Park to the Senate office in Pasay City to call on legislators to abolish the pork barrel system.
“The protest action is meant to call on the people to persevere in the fight against the monsters of corruption. Unlike the creatures of Pinoy folklore, the issue of corruption is quite real and is causing havoc and carnage on the lives of the people,” Neil Doloricon, former dean of the University of the Philippines College of Fine Arts and one of the conveners of Artista Kontra Korupsyon, said.
Among the mythical creatures based on Filipino folklore that were featured in the parade include: Zuma, kapre, tyanak, white ladies, among others. Upon reaching the gates of the Senate office, the protesters shouted, “Let us in. There are more monsters like us inside the Senate.”
The pork barrel scam implicated many legislators who allegedly siphoned public funds by funding projects of fake non-government organizations. The most infamous are the NGOs created and controlled by Janet Lim Napoles.
Aside from the colorful Halloween parade, several big protest actions were organized to show resistance against the pork barrel system.
President Aquino, in his recent pronouncements, defended the Disbursement Acceleration Program saying that it should not be lumped with the Priority Development Assistance Fund. His funds, he said, are being used to provide health, education and housing for the poor. He said in an ABS-CBN report that he is “perplexed” on how “some people” equated PDAF with DAP.
Senators, on the other hand, failed to agree on the proposed abolition of the pork barrel system. In a Philippine Daily Inquirer report, the legislators were given until Nov. 11 to propose projects for their P200 million ($4.65 million) pork barrel funds.
“This administration and the President have already lost a lot in terms of the people’s faith in government. It stands to lose its power over the people if it does not get rid of the pork barrel, prosecute everyone involved in corruption, and begin to truly serve the Filipino people,” Isabelle Baguisi, spokesperson of the League of Filipino Students, said.
Aside from the pork barrel, LFS said, the onerous bonuses of government officials, the public private partnership projects and the lack of social services show the disparity between the select few and the poor Filipino masses.
“People have had enough of being cash cows of a select and powerful few. We ca see that people are quickly and readily organizing themselves to get rid of corruption in the government; the people’s initiative to push for justice for themselves is a proof of that,” Baguisi said.
“This movement will only expand and progress in the coming day,” she added.
Progressive groups said that while Aquino claims that while the Priority Development Assistance Fund is already abolished, the pork barrel system remains deeply embedded in the 2014 budget, which passed its third reading on Oct. 22 by the House of Representatives.
Bayan, on its statement, said that it is high time for the people to use their own power to scrap the pork barrel system from the General Appropriations Act.
“What happened last night at the House of Representatives proves beyond doubt that we cannot expect anything from Congress or the Aquino administration when it comes to abolishing the pork barrel system. While PDAF has already been removed, the new itemized pork will continue the tradition of patronage politics that has made our system corrupt,” Renato Reyes, secretary general of Bayan, said.
Reyes added, “Presidential pork will also continue to exist as lump sum appropriations. We condemn in strongest terms the passage of this 2014 pork budget and hold the Aquino government responsible for this grand deception.”
He said during the program that Bayan, along with progressive groups under its umbrella, will support the Peoples’ Initiatives initiated by former Chief Justice Renato Puno. He said that the Peoples’ Initiatives is will way more powerful than legislators because they would be batting with the very same people who elected them to office.
Reyes said their groups and members will help in possible duties in carrying out the Peoples’ Initiatives. These include scouting for signatures and educating the public about the campaign.
Protesters vowed to return on Nov. 7, the day Napoles will face the Senate, some of whom are implicated in the pork barrel scam.
Reyes said, “when institutions like Congress fail to uphold public interest, we rely on the power of the people. Bayan supports the proposal for the People’s Initiative and will work with CJ Puno and other anti-pork groups advocating this process.”