“Pnoy, what you are doing to us is already painful. If I only knew before what I know now, I wouldn’t have campaigned for you…I am angry. He has failed us.” – Juana Change
By RONALYN V. OLEA
MANILA – Marking the 116th declaration of Philippine Independence, various groups held a protest action demanding “freedom from corruption,” June 12 at the Liwasang Bonifacio.
“All those involved, from the highest to the lowest [position in government] must be held accountable,” Benedictine nun Mary John Mananzan told the crowd in Filipino.
Hundreds of protesters from various groups such as the Abolish Pork Movement, Youth Act Now, Violence Against Crime and Corruption (VACC), DePork, Babae Laban sa Katiwalian (Babala), Kapatiran party, Rx Pork, among others, gathered to demand accountability to all those involved in the pork barrel scam, including the allies of President Benigno Simeon Aquino III.
Wearing the traditional baro’t saya adorned with miniature pigs and pictures of some of those implicated in the pork barrel scam, Mae Paner, popularly known as Juana Change, blurted out, “I am angry at Aquino. I want all of us to unite so we can overthrow him.”
“Pnoy, what you are doing to us is already painful,” Juana Change said. “If I only knew before what I know now, I wouldn’t have campaigned for you…I am angry. He has failed us.”
Blogger Tonyo Cruz expressed dissatisfaction with the filing of plunder and graft charges against opposition senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr. and Jinggoy Estrada. “We should not be overjoyed with the filing of charges against the three senators,” Cruz said. “Those who belong to the LP, Lapian ng Pangulo, Lapian ng mga Plunderers, LOL Panes must be punished. Abad must go,” he said. Florencio Abad, the budget secretary, has been implicated by suspect Janet Lim-Napoles in the P10-billion Priority Development Assistance Fund scam.
Lawyer Harry Roque of the Concerned Citizens Movement said, “Equality before the law is important in the field of human rights. Justice knows no distinction, whether one is a friend, whatever political color one belongs to, must be punished.
Bishop Oscar Cruz asked the protesters if they love their neighbors. “If your neighbor is being deceived, robbed and you defend him, isn’t it that you love him?”
Cruz called on everyone not to stop loving their neighbors.
Members of the VACC waved small Philippine flags. Dante Jimenez, VACC founding chairman, said, “We have declared war against corruption, against pork barrel. Corruption causes crimes. There is corruption in law enforcement, in the prosecution, in penology, in the criminal justice system and it is in corruption that crimes begin.”
Dick Penzon of the Alliance for Truth, Accountability and Nationalism (Atin) lamented how “political dynasties have perfected the system of corruption.” “From mayor to congressmen and senators, all of them use PDAF. It is high time we should sham these people,” he said.
Rodolfo “Jun” Lozada, whistleblower of the corrupt-ridden NBN-ZTE multi-million deal under the Arroyo administration, expressed support to the protesters. “I support you. I am just here.”
Lozada cautioned the protesters on the possibility of Napoles being declared a state witness. “Would you allow that to happen?” The protesters answered a resounding “No.”
Representatives of various sectors also slammed the corruption under the Aquino administration.
Sol Pillas of Migrante and DePork said overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) are angered at the extent of corruption amid the lack of services for OFWs.
“When OFWs seek help from government, we are told that there’s no money. Public funds are being pocketed by the President, the senators and congressmen,” Pillas said.
Pillas lamented that ten embassies and consulates were closed down even as the government collects too many fees from OFWs.
Benjie Valbuena of Teach vs Pork asked, “Where do our taxes go?” “While our schoolchildren are cramped in classrooms, hundreds of our senators and congressmen are in the list of Napoles and Benhur Luy,” he said.
Ana Pholyn Balahadia, a medical student representing the Rx Abolish Pork, also asked the crowd, “What does the government give for the health of our citizens? Where do the money go? To their pockets.”
Balahadia said it’s no good news that the Philippine Orthopedic Center is undergoing privatization, that the Philippine Children’s Medical Center is facing eviction or that poor patients at the Philippine General Hospital are made to pay for their laboratory fees.
Even the LGBTs spoke at the protest action. “We are here to call on Noynoy to resign and to remove the pork barrel,” Korina Maranan of the Kapederasyon sectoral party said. “Girl, Boy, Bakla, Tomboy, Ayaw sa Baboy.”
Renato Reyes Jr., secretary general of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) tagged Aquino as the Pork Barrel King. Reyes said the pork barrel scam would not have been possible without the knowledge of the President.