MANILA, Philippines – Where is big business in the campaign to abolish the pork barrel in all its forms?
Members of the #ScrapPork network posed this question during a press conference on Monday, September 30, where they announced a return of the #MillionPeopleMarch on Friday, October 4 — this time at the country’s central business district, Ayala Avenue in Makati City.
The network that originally planned for the #MillionPeopleMarch held in Luneta last August 26 has expanded to include organized groups of various political alignments and advocacies, but it is still missing a “key” sector.
Peachy Bretaña, among the original organizers of the Luneta march, said the business sector remains to be “fence-sitting” as far as this issue is concerned, in particular the Makati Business Club (MBC) and the Management Association of the Philippines (MAP).
“Hindi po nag-iiba ang aming mensahe. At ang gusto namin – kaya nasa Ayala na ito – ay hikayatin pati ang mag businessmen at korporasyon,” said Bretaña.
(Our message is the same. What we want – which is why the march will be held in Ayala – is to encourage businessmen and corporations to join.)
The MBC has been active in previous campaigns against corruption, especially under the Estrada administration.
Abolish all pork
The #ScrapPork network maintains its demands for the absolute abolition of the pork barrel of legislators and the President and for the prosecution of all officials who have misused their discretionary funds over the years.
The group appealed to President Benigno Aquino III to put into practice his “Tuwid na daan” slogan, by abolishing all forms of discretionary funds and not just “repackaging them into a new system.”
READ: Butch Abad: No more pork barrel by 2015
In unison, members of the group shouted, “Tuwid na daan. Tuwid na paraan. Scrap pork now!” (Upright path. Upright means. Scrap pork now!)
(Watch the group’s plea below.)
Harry Roque of the Concerned Citizens Movement (CCM) said big businesses have a stake in the corruption scandal now hounding the Philippine Congress, given their share in the taxes collected by government.
CCM to ask mkti business club and management assoc of phl to support oct 4 mob as business also victims of corruption— Harry Roque (@attyharryroque) September 30, 2013
Roque said the involvement of MBC and MAP will further put pressure on the Aquino administration.
Withhold tax as a form of protest?
He added that cooperation from the business sector is necessary should there be a call for citizens to withhold their taxes as a form of protest.
“Para doon sa mga ordinaryong empleyado na gugustuhin i-withhold ang kanilang mga buwis, kinakailangan mabuo ang kooperasyon ng mga namumuhunan dahil sila yung withholding agent,” Roque explained.
(For those ordinary employees who want to join in withholding their taxes, there has to be cooperation from company owners because they are the withholding agent.)
“So parang kampante ang Malacañang ngayon na walang mangyayari doon sa kilos-protesta na itigil ang pagbabayad ng buwis. Pero kapag nagkaisa pati yung mga withholding agents ng BIR, baka mangyari ito,” he added.
(Malacañang seems confident nothing will come out of any citizens’ action of withholding their taxes. But if corporations join the protest, it might have an effect.)
Bretaña clarified that the #ScrapPork network has not asked citizens to stop paying their taxes as a form of dissent. She added, however, that they are willing to step up their campaign to that extent.
“There is a need to level up. What do we do next? Hindi puedeng puro rally-rally (Rallies alone won’t work). In fact, ordinary people want a stronger action,” Bretaña said in an interview.
Public pressure works
The group, however, believes in the power of mass action to sway policymakers.
“Meron pong epekto yung public pressure (Public pressure has an effect). There’s a change in the tune of government kapag tayo po ay nagsasama-sama (if we work together),” said activist Cleve Arguelles, adding that the Ayala protest can still influence the ongoing budget deliberations.
Among the personalities present in the media conference were theater actress Monique Wilson, Archbishop Oscar Cruz, and comedian Mae Paner a.k.a Juana Change.
The #ScrapPork network now includes the following groups: EDSA Tayo, BlogWatch, PH Internet Freedom Alliance, Bayan, Sanlakas, Philippine Council of Evangelical Churches, US Pinoys for Good Governance, Partido ng Lakas ng Masa, Freedom from Debt Coalition, Pagbabago, Youth Act Now, Babala, and CCM, among others. – Rappler.com
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