“Congress will not enact the needed law abolishing pork, so it is up to us people to do it. And that’s what we’re doing now.” – Sr. Mary John Mananzan
By MARYA SALAMAT
MANILA — Up to 20,000 gathered in Luneta (Rizal Park) from 6 a.m. to early afternoon Aug 25 (Monday) for the “second of many steps” to be done for the people’s initiative to abolish pork. Early in the morning, the Aquino government also deployed truckloads of soldiers in battle gear from the Philippine Army, Marines and Navy, aside from police contingent, purportedly to secure the vicinity of the park. The deployment was aired live on television and radio as the first booths were being put up at the park.
In her speech early into the program, Sr. Mary John Mananzan of Abolish Pork Movement shared the events surrounding the “first step,” and that was last week’s People’s Congress, participated in by more than a thousand mass leaders, anti-pork activists and church people in Cebu, followed by a gathering for the first signup drive at Plaza Independencia in the same city. The second step is the Aug. 25 Luneta gathering, said Mananzan. The gathering also marked the first anniversary of the Million People March against Pork.
At the Luneta gathering, many speakers pointed to the tragedy that pork still exists in the budget, despite the initial victory of anti-pork protests. Two subsequent Supreme Court rulings have declared two kinds of pork, one by legislators and one by the executive, as unconstitutional. Yet, in disclosures by Makabayan legislators and other anti-pork groups, such as the presentation at the People’s Congress to Abolish Pork by Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate, pork remains as big lumps in the budget.
“We define pork barrel as lump sum, funds that are not designated, over which few or just one would decide where it will be spent,” Mananzan said at Luneta.
SC rulings, definition of pork not yet implemented
Greco Belgica, one of the first petitioners who asked the Supreme court to declare lump sum funds unconstitutional, recalled that the Supreme Court has unanimously decided 14 – 0 against PDAF (Priority Development Assistance Fund) and later against the DAP (Disbursement Acceleration Program), presidential and legislative pork, respectively.
Belgica said SC has already defined pork, that all lump sums in the budget except calamity and contingency funds are pork and as such are illegal. Government agencies tasked to investigate and prosecute are directed to investigate those who used pork from 1991 up to now, he said, quoting the SC rulings.
Belgica said the Supreme Court has also directed the Commission on Audit (COA) to investigate notices of disallowances.
But one year later, “these things are not yet being implemented,” Belgica said. He questioned why COA is not releasing documents and evidences that would have helped start the investigation and prosecution.
The SC rulings are already clear and sufficient in defining pork, outlining liabilities such as imprisonment from one year to life, as well as in laying down the requirement to return funds transformed to pork, and that misuse of public funds could perpetually disqualify involved politicians from office, the speakers at the Luneta rally said, from Belgica to musicians and leaders of sectoral organizations under Bagong Alyansang Makabayan, to alliances such as MAD (Mamamayan ayaw sa Dinastiya) and VACC, and students from state universities and private universities and colleges.
But one year after the first big rallies against pork, these SC definitions of pork and liabilities are not yet being implemented, they said.
“There’s pork barrel still. Congressman Lito Atienza told me,” said Most Rev. Bishop Teodoro C. Bacani Jr.
Bacani described pork barrel as “pambababoy sa Bayan” as these funds, he said, would be used to buy votes during elections and so their happy days in power would continue.
The SC rulings are not yet being applied, lamented Belgica. On the contrary, pork is very much alive in the budget, he added.
Pork is the cause of corruption and political patronage, said Sr. Mananzan. With the importance of pork on a politician’s power, the activist nun said politicians hold on and defend their pork. “That’s why pork is not yet dead, it’s only being hidden and will be hidden, hence the need to craft a law abolishing this,” she told the crowd at Luneta.
Mananzan said the “Congress will not enact the needed law abolishing pork, so it is up to us people to do it. And that’s what we’re doing now.”
She and the emcees and all speakers including the cultural performers who performed to the delight of the rallyists urged everyone present to go forth and seek more signatories to the people’s initiative to abolish pork.
“We need signatures of at least three percent per district, or a total of up to six million registered voters,” Mananzan said, to push for the holding of referendum for the said law.
She said the movement spearheading the initiative, the PIAP (People’s Initiative Against Pork), has conducted a regional planning during the recently held People’s Congress in Cebu on how to proceed with P.I. (people’s initiative) at the district levels. In media interviews, she expressed hope the people on the ground will support this initiative.
All things pork must end
Many groups are coming to express support for the P.I. Aside from the socio-civic groups already present in anti-pork protests since last year, the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) declared its support for the P.I. In a speech at Luneta, a lawyer representative asked for nationwide support for the people’s initiative (P.I.).
He criticized the development today showing how the Aquino government seems to be pushing for the transformation into pork of nearly every fund of all branches of the government.
He cited the JDF (Judicial Development Fund) as an example. “They want to put this under national treasury, when it’s not from taxes. But, what are they doing to PCSO [Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office] funds, for example? They are turning these funds to pork,” the IBP leader exclaimed.
He refused to consider what would become of democracy and checks and balances in the branches of government if the judiciary would be forced to come begging to the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) to request what the law has already defined as their own funds.
Like other groups who came to Luneta seeking abolition of pork barrel, IBP condemns the proposed term extension of President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III. “They want to extend their term to continue enjoying pork, and evade liability for pork. Let’s condemn their pork barrel. Tama na, sobra na pork barrel,” he said by way of ending his speech. Directors of the Stand Up, Sign Up against Pork activity had to strictly time the speeches to accommodate leaders of most of the groups that gathered in the park to support P.I.
No to Noy second term, evasion of liability, hypocrisy
“When a leader was installed in power, he becomes hibang (deranged) and deaf,” observed the Most Rev. Bishop Bacani in one of the most applauded, interactive speeches at the Luneta program. The bishop seemed to have channeled the El Shaddai speakers who also use the park for mammoth gatherings.
Bishop Bacani explained his observations to hoots and cries of agreements from the crowd. The president is “hibang (deranged), because he hears a ‘clamor’ only in his head; there is none coming from us,” Bacani said, echoing the shouts of the protesters.
“He becomes deaf, because he does not hear the demands to abolish pork,” Bacani added. Other speakers also condemned Aquino for not seeming to hear the SC ruling against pork.
“Would you want to be ruled by such a leader, in an extended term, even?” Bacani asked. The crowd shouted a resounding ‘No.’
Bacani warned that like Marcos, any politician who extended his or her term sooner or later would soon refuse to vacate the position of power.
“No way, never, to term extension,” was written on a shirt brought by the bishop to the rally. It was displayed on stage after he finished speaking. The emcees said the bishop’s mom was the one who came up with that message. “Mother knows best, indeed,” said the emcees.
The bishop had all but called President Aquino a hypocrite.
During his speech, he said also, “The Lord barely condemns, but He has told the scribes ‘You are hypocrites!’” He was referring to how Aquino was saying something but what he really wanted and what he was doing were being hidden.
“They said there’s no pork barrel. Is that true?” asked Bacani. The protesters again replied: “No, that’s not true.”
“With us continuing to unite, even the deaf will hear us in the end,” Bacani said.
Sr. Mary John Mananzan also said, after reminding the people how many steps it would likely take to abolish pork, that “If we have a dream and we have to hold on to it, if it’s worth fulfilling, even cosmic forces of the universe will align for this dream.”
Protests of musicians
The Luneta pork protest nearly turned into a concert as musical performances came after every two or three short speeches.
Daryl Shy of The Voice Philippines fame sang “Tatsulok,” a song about social iniquities. The rock band Kamikazee performed three of their hit songs and their time onstage nearly turned the rally into a huge sing-along. The lead vocalist was self-deprecating, telling the audience that despite their appearances (tattooed and all), they are kind-hearted and concerned with the country.
“Since I became a father eight years ago, I realized it is no longer just about me. You have to worry and be concerned for someone else,” Jay Contreras of Kamikaze said. He thanked the PIAP organizers for giving them the chance to do their share, even if it is just some of their love songs.
The Jerks also performed crowd favorites such as “Rage” at the rally, as do Sining Lila, a singer-songwriter from VACC, Anton Ferrel, Bayang Barrios and Musikang Bayan.
‘We will not tire of protesting pork:’ All-sector attendance at Luneta rally, march to Mendiola
President Benigno Aquino III made much of a teenager’s letter asking why there is this frequent questioning and protests. But at the rally in Luneta, many teenagers and even children also came, as student councils sent their delegations.
Student council leaders spoke briefly on the stage to express their support of P.I. and their condemnation of President Aquino’s so-called listening to “clamor” for his term extension.
Aside from state university students such as those from UP, there were student from UST, San Beda, De Lasalle-Araneta and Manila, College of St. Benilde, Sienna College, National University, University of the East Manila, Lyceum of the Philippines, Mapua Institute of Technology, Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila, Colegio de San Juan de Letran, Polytechnic University, and Philippine Women’s University.
Victor Villanueva, president of Youth Act Now, said “We will also be workers. To our mothers and fathers, we say: We won’t allow our children to inherit these problems (of pork and corruption).”
Gays and lesbian also urged support for P.I., in lesbian speak.
Indigenous peoples brought bamboo poles, which they drummed in time with chants against pork and Aquino’s term extension. UST students also came with their drums and played against pork barrel before the program started.
After lunch, groups under the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan with the support of various groups in Luneta prepared to march to Mendiola, where they concluded the Heroes’ Day protest after 3 p.m.
Elmer “Bong” Labog, chairman of Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU), said at Mendiola, “People will never get tired of fighting corruption and this US-Aquino regime.”
“The anti-pork protesters had been up early this Heroes’ Day for the Manila kick-off of P.I.; they had gone out of their house early to go to Luneta, to join thousands of their fellow Filipinos continuing to oppose the rule of US puppet, President BS Aquino,” Labog said.
He congratulated the people, for having registered their protest against “looming dictatorship” of Noynoy Aquino. The peoples’ initiative against pork happened not just in Metro Manila but also in other regions, Labog shared.
“This is a victorious, successful protest action day,” he added.
The protesters recognized that “in the face of growing hatred of the people, BS Aquino’s ilk had met, formed a coalition calling itself Mamamayan Para sa Reporma.” Labog said this group wants to make it appear that the people wanted Aquino’s continued rule.
But that is a lie, said Labog, who also called it “another Aquino claim to fool the people who really have no such plan nor coalition.” Labog was referring to a group formed by 400 Aquino supporters, who speak to defend President Aquino’s actions from implementing the criticized Conditional Cash Transfer to criticizing calls to impeach Aquino and protest his policies. The group was so far silent on issues of pork.
Labog said in Mendiola, the Filipinos are calling for Aquino’s ouster, not term extension. He explained that under Aquino’s four years of rule, people have grown even poorer, while the few led by Aquino and his clique have grown wealthier numerous times.
“The P.I. (people’s initiative) is genuine democracy in action, the wellspring of real strength of the people,” Labog said. He concluded the day’s protest by asking every participant to go forth and multiply the reach of this initiative, to continue encouraging every Filipino that change will happen only through efforts of the Filipino people themselves, and not through self-proclaimed yet non-existent “reforms” touted by a president like Aquino.