All systems go for Million People March

 Plans are all set for the Million People March intended to scrap the pork barrel on August 26, National Heroes Day, at Luneta Park, Manila.

Organizers, consisting of concerned citizens and various advocacy and political groups, met with the Manila Police District on Saturday to finalize plans for what they dub a "picnic rally" against the Priority Development Assistance Fund.

The main event will start at 9 am and end at 2 pm. Participants will converge in front of a large LED screen or video wall to be installed at the Quirino Grand Stand side of Luneta Park facing the Rizal Monument.

Upon entering, participants will be asked to register their attendance in a petition tent near the video wall.

The center of the rally area will be designated for individuals not affiliated with any groups and who are attending as concerned citizens. The right and left sides will be reserved for participating advocacy and political groups.

COMING TOGETHER. The private individuals and representatives of advocacy and political groups come together to conduct an ocular of the Quirino Grand Stand and Luneta Park grounds two days before the rally

Photo by Pia Ranada/Rappler

A command center with a public announcement system will be placed near the video wall. Command center head Vincent Lazatin of coalition Transparency and Accountability Network who volunteered as a concerned taxpayer maintained that no political speeches will be made through the main PA system. Only announcements related to security and coordination will be relayed.

However, advocacy and political groups who will be given their own areas in the venue will have their own pocket stages where they can make speeches and display their banners.

Around 50 portalets, donated by various participants and private companies, will be installed around the park. Ambulances from Red Cross, Department of Health and Rock Ed Philippines will be on standby on all sides of the park to attend to health concerns of participants.

Security concerns

On the MPD's end, Senior Supt Joel Coronel assured the Million People March organizers that "the MPD will be your partner for this activity."

He said they will deploy 2,000 police officers to protect participants from criminal elements and "ensure peace and order is maintained."

EVENT PARTNERS. Manila Police District Chief Supt Isagani Genabe Jr (right) and Senior Supt Joel Coronel explain their security plans to Million People March organizers

Photo by Pia Ranada/Rappler

But it was agreed upon during the meeting that marshals–composed of around 800 private individuals who volunteered with the Million People March organizers–will be the first to deal with possible conflicts between groups or individuals in the rally and maintain crowd control.

The MPD promised to step in only when the marshals cannot handle conflicts or when a crime is being committed.

As much as possible, Coronel said, "we do not want to appear aggressive or hostile."

The rally organizers meanwhile, vowed to keep the event peaceful with no harm to people or property.

The organizers

A movement that began from "call to action" posts on Facebook by various individuals, many unaffiliated with political groups, the event took shape after the creation of a Facebook event page.

With no actual names of individuals or groups identified as the organizers (even the FB event is by "Power ng Pinoy"), many were at first suspicious of the movement, said Nica Dumlao, part of the Million People March team who attended the meeting with the MPD.

That was why it was crucial that the social-media-powered movement cross over to the physical world. An "eyeball" meeting was organized on August 21 to allow people serious about holding the rally to collaborate in person.

PEOPLE'S MOVEMENT. Organizers and supporters of the rally, including Manila Tourism's Carlos Celdran, share a light moment during the ocular for the rally

Photo by Pia Ranada/Rappler

The meeting was attended by around 40 people composed of private citizens, group representatives and social media influencers like Jim Paredes, Carlos Celdran, and Mae Paner of "Juana Change" fame.

Two days before the event, the groups involved in organizing the rally can now be identified. They include Philippine Internet Freedom Alliance, Rock-Ed, BlogWatch Philippines, Filipino Free Thinkers, Bagong Alyansang Makabayan, Sanlakas, Akbayan, UP Samasa Alumni, and many individuals unaffiliated with political groups who volunteered simply as concerned taxpayers.

But Lazatin emphasized during the meeting with MPD that no single individual or group claims ownership or leadership of the event.

Heeding the call

Various groups and institutions have thrown their support behind the movement including De La Salle University, Catholic Educational Association of the Philippines, St Scholastica's College in Manila and more.

"A lot of artists and artist groups said they're attending," said Kenneth Keng of Filipino Freethinkers who attended the Saturday ocular for the rally.

Among those who confirmed are Silly People's Improv Theater (SPIT), Philippine Educational Theater Association (PETA) and actor Audie Gemora.

The Manila event has inspired Filipinos in Naga to stage a similar protest in Plaza Rizal, Naga City. Entitled "Halion na an Pork Barrel Naga March" (Abolish Pork Barrel Now Naga March), it will also be held on Monday, 9 am.

Keep Luneta clean

Environmental activists also taking their stand against pork barrel lost no time in urging rally-goers to keep Luneta Park clean.

"Our righteous demand to end corruption is not an acceptable alibi to turn the park into a dumpsite for cigarette butts, food leftovers and wrappers, plastic bags and even for political leaflets. It's our collective duty to keep Luneta, a common heritage, tidy and safe," said Aileen Lucero, the acting national coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition in an Interaksyon article.

How can participants minimize their trash? EcoWaste Coalition suggests:

  • Carry a personal litter bag or hold on to your rubbish until you find a bin.
  • Bring your own water in a refillable container to avoid buying bottled water.
  • Avoid disposable packages. Place food in recyclable containers that should be brought home.
  • Use reusable bags instead of disposable plastic bags.
  • Don't spit, throw chewing gum or toss cigarette filters on the ground.
  • Remind friends, family, and strangers to observe all the above.

The social-media-sparked rally will not be complete without social media mobilization. Organizers encourage participants to tweet using the hashtags #ScrapPork and #MillionPeopleMarch. - Rappler.com

Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada is a senior reporter for Rappler covering Philippine politics and environmental issues. For tips and story suggestions, email her at pia.ranada@rappler.com.

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