BACOLOD CITY, Philippines – Braving the rains, about 10,000 Negrenses on Monday, October 14, participated in an anti-pork barrel rally here that Catholic Church leaders said would kick off a series of similar rallies in the diocese.
The rally called for the abolition of the Priority Development Assistance Fund and other forms of pork barrel, including the discretionary funds of President Benigno Aquino III.
Protesters marched from the Negros Occidental Capitol Lagoon Park, past the Lupit Church and West Negros University, and stopped at Bacolod plaza for a program, where speakers took turns denouncing the misuse of government funds and the officials involved in it.
“We must speak out against this evil scandal that has robbed the poor of much needed government assistance,” Bishop Vicente Navarra said in a circular issued before the rally, and addressed to the Christian faithful of the Diocese of Bacolod.
The rally was held just a few days after several Catholic churches across the country simultaneously tolled their bells on October 10 to protest the abuses and corruption involving discretionary funds by both the executive and legislative branches of government.
“We want to show our opposition against pork barrel. If we don’t do this, politicians will not know our sentiments,” Auxiliary Bishop of Manila Broderick Pabillo, national director of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines-National Secretariat for Social Action, said during the rally.
Pabillo said the pork barrel system leads to various social ills like political dynasties.
He stressed that the Church is not meddling in governnment, but has every reason to speak up for good governance. The money, which is intended for the poor, has ended up in the pockets of several individuals.
He also urged President Aquino to give up his own pork barrel to serve as a role model.
said, “The glaring reason for so many social ills that beset our country today is the deeply imbedded culture of corruption. This is the bitter fruit of our collective indifference and permissiveness.”
Navarra said the controversial pork barrel system is proven to have been a “breeding ground” of corruption and patronage politics.
Stressing that it is the duty of Christians to speak out against corruption, Navarra added, “Such innate goodness of our humanity sanctions our rightful indignation against anything that is dishonest, deceitful, untruthful and evil.”
Navarra said the anti-pork barrel rally is just the beginning of a series of calls the Diocese of Bacolod will make.
During the 2013 election season, the Bacolod diocese under Navarra did the unprecedented and openly campaigned for 6 senatorial candidates who voted in favor of passing the Church-opposed reproductive health law.
Election lawyer Romulo Macalintal, who also spoke at the rally, said, “Many of us thought that the Philippines is a poor nation, but with the discovery of the PDAF scam, our country is actually wealthy, only that our money goes to the pockets of some people.”
Macalintal said the senators and congressmen who voted for the Reproductive Health bill’s passage and for the ouster of former Chief Justice Renato Corona in exchange for a bigger slice of PDAF, will be answerable not only to the people, but to God as well.
In a privilege speech on September 25, Senator Jinggoy Estrada revealed that senators were given P50 million in additional PDAF in 2012 after they voted to convict Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona, whom the President badly wanted removed.
The administration later admitted funds were released, but said these were not bribes and were not PDAF – they were releases from the Disbursement Acceleration Program, which legal experts and a former budget secretary had since called illegal. – Rappler.com