#ScrapPork rallies still a go despite Aquino's reform plans
MANILA, Philippines – The planned anti-pork barrel rallies across the country on Monday, August 26, will push through despite the announcement of President Aquino that changes will be introduced to the fund system.
Groups that are participating in the National Heroes Day activity in Luneta and in key cities dismissed the President's announcement on Friday, August 23, as a desperate attempt to control the outrage against the Priority Assistance Development Fund (PDAF) of lawmakers.
"The protest on Monday must push through to call for the abolition of all pork and for accountability not just of Napoles but all officials involved up to the present Aquino government," said Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN) secretary-general Renato Reyes Jr.
Anakbayan, on the other hand, called the President’s announcement “an obvious spin to try to undermine the peoples’ protests versus pork barrel and corruption under his administration.”
“We will no longer accept press releases and media spins. Protests will continue to snowball. Let us troop to the streets today and on Monday to condemn the pork barrel and the corrupt ruling set-up under Aquino,” Anakbayan chairperson Vencer Crisostomo said.
Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pilipino-National Capital Region and Rizal (BMP-NCRR) secretary-general Gie Relova, for her part, urged its members to not be "blinded with the sudden change of heart of the President and his allies in the Senate and Lower House."
Change of names
The Centerlaw and Concerned Citizens Movement (CCCM) called Aquino’s announcement the “same dog in a different collar” and expressed their concern that the plans might only be a change of name.
Before being called PDAF, the special appropriation for lawmakers funds were called the Congressional Initiative Allocation (CIA), then the Countryside Development Fund (CDF), before it was re-named PDAF after investigative journalists exposed the discretionary fund.
“It may be that this alleged abolition of PDAF is yet to be another renaming...To completely do away with pork barrel, what is required is to abolish all lump sum appropriations,” the group maintained.
Meanwhile, Crisostomo said Aquino is just trying to cover up the fact that pork barrel increased during his administration.
“He is actually securing and defending his pork and other lump sums. His presidential pork will not be touched,” Crisostomo added.
Sparked on Facebook
Since the issue on the alleged grave misuse of the pork barrel broke out, the public clamor to hold everyone involved accountable spread on social network sites. The August 26 protest was first planned on a Facebook page initiated by concerned netizens.
On August 21, several organized and unorganized individuals held at least two separate meetings to discuss the planned protest action.
"Yung dating nakikita ko lang sa social media, nakita ko. Maganda na pinaguusapan yung substance ng pinaglalaban natin," Nica Dumlao, one of those who attended the meeting, told Rappler.
(I finally met the people who I only used to see in social media. This is good so we can discuss on the substance of what we are fighting for.)
In the meeting, the participants identified themselves as "concerned individuals." They agreed to support other citizens that share the same concern on the pork barrel issue.
Departing from the initial plan to wear white and disallow banners from the march, the group decided to welcome everyone, regardless of political leaning or affiliations.
"Kung magsisimula pa tayong mag-nitpicking kung organized ba tayo o hindi eh baka hindi pa tayo nagsisimula ay divided na tayong lahat," Janice Ian Manlutac said. (If we start nitpicking whether we are organized or not this early, then we might become divided even before we start.)
The individuals who attended the meeting decided to serve as the coordination body among other concerned and unorganized individuals who want to attend the event.
Upholding the principles of mutual respect and solidarity, they decided to be inclusive. They also refused to call themselves organizers. According to the group, each one is his or her organizer and leader.
The expected action will not only take place in Manila. Filipinos from all over the country and around the world have also expressed their intention to take part in the Monday event.
#ScrapPork and investigate
Beyond the abolition of the pork barrel system, citizens demand the realignment of the budget for pork barrel to social services like education, health and social welfare. The "concerned citizens" said they support the creation of an independent and separate commission to investigate the pork barrel scam.
The group is also calling for government's maximum disclosure to the special body they wish to be created.
"Aside from establishing new bodies, why don't we support COA and DOJ and protect them. At least may nagsisimula na ng magandang gawain para baguhin young system," Manlutac added in the planning.
Earlier in June, a special fact-finding team was created by Ombudsman Conchita Morales to investigate the pork barrel scam. The Commission on Audit also released a report on the use of PDAF from 2007 to 2009.
On the day itself, the group is expected to use the hashtag #ScrapPork on online social media.
What will happen?
On Monday in Manila, concerned citizens are expected to assemble at Liwasang Bonfacio at 9 am.
By 10 am, participants will march from Liwasang Bonifacio to Luneta, where several activities and programs will be held from 11 am to 2 pm.
They are expected to conduct their march "peacefully, nonviolently, and creatively."
Aside from the usual programs and solidarity messages, flash mob and other creative gimmicks are expected to happen during the event.
Individuals who want to join the event are encouraged to bring the following:
- Umbrellas, to be spray-painted with your own demands
- Your own placards and banners, with your own personalized messages
- Drums, bongoes--anything that will make the march fun!
- Food to share
The anti-pork rally first sparked in a Facebook page created after the issue on the alleged grave misuse of the pork barrel broke out. – Rappler.com