Today on Rappler.
- A Facebook post sparks nationwide protest as thousands of Filipinos rally against the pork barrel.
- Budget secretary Abad says the overhauled pork will no longer be lump sum appropriations and will have minimal lawmaker discretion.
- Syria allows a United Nations team to investigate an alleged chemical weapons attack.
Story 1: FACEBOOK POST SPARKS MASSIVE PROTEST
Public outrage against the pork barrel scam first erupts on social media, getting critical mass and snowballing into a full blown street protest.
Paterno Esmaquel reports.
This is what a Facebook post can do.
Luneta turns into a sea of white, with 70,000 Filipinos protesting corruption.
Protesters slam the alleged misuse of the pork barrel — three days after President Benigno Aquino proposes to abolish it in its current form.
No single leader directs the crowdsourced rally.
Peachy Bretana, one of the three persons who started the Million People March, says it is a modern display of leadership.
PEACHY BRETANA, CO-ORGANIZER: ‘Yung sinasabi nilang leaderless, hindi po to leaderless. Leaderful! (What they call leaderless isn’t leaderless. It’s leaderful!) We can all be leaders.
The traditional leaders follow the crowd.
Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle adds weight to the people’s protest. On August 26 National Heroes’ Day, the cardinal prays for heroism.
LUIS ANTONIO CARDINAL TAGLE, MANILA ARCHBISHOP: Pag sinabi nating bayanihan, sabay-sabay maging bayani. Inaanyayahan ko po ang lahat na tingnan, dinggin at mahalin ang mga dukha at naghihirap bilang mga kapwa at kapatid. Ating damahin ang tibok na puso ng ating bayan…Patunayan po natin na marangal ang Pilipino. (When we say “bayanihan,” it means we should all be heroes. I invite you all to see, hear, and love the poor and the destitute as neighbors and brothers. Let us feel the pulse of our country… Let us prove the Filipino has dignity.)
The rally becomes the biggest under the Aquino administration.
PATERNO ESMAQUEL, REPORTING: Unlike other big rallies, the Million People March doesn’t dwell on specific personalities. It’s driven by anger toward a systemic problem – the pork barrel system. It’s a sign of maturity for a country stuck in personality politics.
Comedienne Mae Paner, Juana Change on social media, says the protest shows a change in consciousness.
MAE PANER A.K.A. “JUANA CHANGE”, SOCIAL MEDIA ARTIST: Itong event na ‘to, I think, ay patunay ng pagbabago ng consciousness na ‘yan, at tingnan natin kung saan ito makakarating. Puwede namang pagkatapos nito, wala na, balik-balk na tayo sa dati nating mga buhay, and then parang walang nangyari. (This event, I think, is proof of this change in consciousness. Let’s see where this leads us. It could be that after this, it’s all over, and we will all return to our ways of life, and pretend nothing like this happened.)
The Luneta rally shows the internet’s huge influence on protest in the Philippines, moving it away from organized militant groups to netizens.
JIM PAREDES, SINGER/SONGWRITER: I would really like to see this as the start of many changes. It’s time. Nagulat lang ako na ngayon lang tayo nagalit it took us so long to get angry but never too late.
JOSE JAVIER REYES, DIRECTOR: Hindi ito rebolusyon hindii ito itaob yung gov simpleng pahingi ng paliwanang kung ano ang nangyari at simpleng pag demand ng solusyon sa problema na tinatawag na PDAF. (This is not a revolution, this is not a move to oust government, this is simply the people asking for an explanation and a solution to the problem of pork.)
A preview of the power of social media to transform online anger into real collective action.
Paterno Esmaquel, Rappler, Manila.
Story 2: #MillionPeopleWatch PEAKS AT TENS OF THOUSANDS
Online, it’s called #MillionPeopleMarch, but organizers say the crowd reached a peak of 400,000, while police estimate the crowd to be only around 80,000.
Despite falling below its target, netizens say it’s a success.
Bea Cupin reports.
Ousted Chief Justice Renato Corona finds out this isn’t his crowd, after the impeached official makes an unwanted visit.
Corona was dismissed from office in May 2012 after the Senate impeachment court found him guilty of betraying public trust by failing to declare his wealth.
WILL VILLANUEVA, PROTESTER: I think he’s part of the problem. He hasn’t owned up to his tax deficiencies, right?
The same issues hurled against Corona are the issues in this rally: lack of transparency and corruption.
A state audit report shows at least 192 lawmakers misused P6.1 billion of pork barrel.
They also react to the President’s abolition of the pork barrel Friday.
MARTA MATUTI, ENTREPRENEUR: He says abolish PDAF and then what, line items? What are we going to do with that? That’s still our money. There’s gotta be more transparency… we want to see people brought down to justice.
The crowd in Luneta is diverse.
The young, the old, the famous.
ROBIN PADILLA, TV PERSONALITY: Nakikisama kami sa inyo… paraho ng ginagawa ninyo… magmulat. (We are one with you and what you’re trying to do: make people aware.)
And the average Juan.
JOEL MERALPES, VENDOR: Sobra yung paghihirap ng mamayanan habang pinakikinabangan ng iilang yung kaban ng bayan… (Many Filipinos are suffering while a small few are taking advantage of the country’s coffers.)
Protestors urge government to scrap the Priority Development Assistance Fund and the President’s pork barrel.
PINKY AMADOR, ACTRESS: Ang kinakalaban dito yung katiwalian. Yung pag-iisip, yung consciousness na okay lang kumuha ng pera ng iba. Hindi po okay yun. (We are fighting corruption. We are fighting that thinking, that consciousness that its okay to take other people’s money. That is not okay.)
They ask for a full accounting of pork barrel expenses and thieving public officials punished.
BEA CUPIN, REPORTING: They may not have reached a million, but the message is clear: abolish pork barrel and institute reforms in government. The mood is festive and hopeful in Luneta but protesters here also emphasize: this is only the beginning. Bea Cupin, Rappler, Manila
Story 3: GROUPS COME TOGETHER FOR #MILLIONPEOPLEMARCH
Protestors in Luneta Park find unity in diversity as they express their anger over corruption.
Buena Bernal files this video blog.
There is chanting, dancing and playing of instruments here at Luneta Park for what is considered the biggest anti-corruption mass action seeking to abolish the pork barrel system.
The ground is extremely muddy and there are light rains from time to time but the crowd is getting bigger since the start of the program.
People congregate in groups and artists perform for small crowds on the sidelines while religious groups pray separately.
Differences are highlighted between advocacy, political, and religious groups, given their varied means of protesting.
But they are all in agreement with one thing – to abolish the discretionary funds of lawmakers and institute reforms for greater transparency.
Buena Bernal, Rappler, Manila.
Story 4: CITIES NATIONWIDE HOLD #SCRAPPORK RALLIES
Other cities across the country join Manila’s #MillionPeopleMarch to call for the abolition of pork.
In Naga, over 100 people stage a rally at Plaza Rizal, while in Palawan, protesters gather at the baywalk in Puerto Prinsesa.
In Baguio, at least 400 protesters gather at the Rose Garden, in what Luchie Maranan of the Baguio Writers Group calls a “spontaneous demonstration of indignation.”
In Negros, more than 2,000 gather in front of the provincial Negros Capitol building.
The Negros peace advocates say, “We will not accept any attempt to simply rename the same pork barrel with another one to appease the angry citizens.”
In Tacloban City, about 100 people gather at the RTR plaza as part of the nationwide march in the morning.
In Cebu, at least 3,200 march to Plaza Independencia despite the gloomy weather.
Story 5: AT LEAST 700 DAVAOEÑOS HOLD ANTI-PORK BARREL PROTEST
At least 700 students, teachers, professionals, church people and activists, gather in Davao City’s Rizal Park Monday to join the nationwide protests calling for the abolition of pork barrel.
Protesters assemble at Ateneo de Davao University’s Freedom Park before marching to Rizal Park.
Ateneo de Davao University President Fr Joel Tabora says the protest is a way for ordinary Filipinos to voice their opinion against corruption.
He adds, “We, Filipinos, do not define ourselves by the likes of Janet Napoles; we do not define ourselves by corruption; we do not define ourselves by lies, manipulation and fear.”
Tabora, a vocal critic on different issues, says citizens deserve to know the truth.
Story 6: AQUINO VOWS TO PUNISH PEOPLE BEHIND PORK SCAM
President Benigno Aquino vows to punish the people behind the massive misuse of lawmakers’ discretionary fund.
Aquino makes this promise in his National Heroes Speech at the Libingan ng mga Bayani.
BENIGNO AQUINO III, PHILIPPINE PRESIDENT: Gagawin natin ang lahat ng ating makakaya, upang tukuyin at panagutin ang mga nagkuntsabahan para dungisan ang dapat sana’y marangal na layunin ng dating PDAF. Hindi natin hahayaang maging kasangkapan ang sinuman upang magpatuloy ang kababuyan ng iilan. (We will do everything in our power to find those who conspired to take advantage of the PDAF’s good intentions, and to hold them accountable. We will not allow anyone to be used to propagate the corrupt practices of a few.)
On Friday, Aquino announced an overhaul in the pork barrel system.
Lawmakers are now required to submit their plans for their respective pork barrel and will be earmarked in the budget law as line items.
Story 7: PDAF MORE THAN DOUBLED UNDER AQUINO
The Priority Development Assistance Fund more than doubled under the Aquino administration compared to what his predecessor Gloria Arroyo allocated.
Before Arroyo stepped down, the PDAF allocated for 2010 was P10.86 billion.
When the Aquino administration passed its first budget for 2011, the allocation skyrocketed to P24.62 billion.
Back then, Aquino justified the increase in pork barrel, saying “[it] can be an equalizer to the local government units.”
Aquino referred to the practice during Arroyo’s time, where favored lawmakers were allowed to make additional budget insertions aside from getting their PDAF.
Story 8: ‘NGOs’ ABUSE P751 M IN SOCIAL WORK PDAF
A state audit report shows questionable non-governmental organizations abuse P751 million of lawmakers’ pork barrel that went through the social welfare department.
The Commission on Audit report on the 2007-2009 pork barrel releases show P751 million was released to at least 20 NGOs, most of which had dubious backgrounds, questionable projects, and unverifiable beneficiaries.
Only the Philippine Red Cross is a legitimate organization, although the report noted it failed to liquidate P21 million of the P52 million it got.
Fifty-five lawmakers funneled their pork to these 20 NGOs.
Of these organizations, only 7 had multiple patrons; the rest had one lawmaker patron each.
Kalookan Assistance Council Inc gets the biggest chunk of misused funds – P133.6 million from the pork barrel of 10 House members and Senator Juan Ponce Enrile, who gave P10 million.
Then-Senator Edgardo Angara poured P95.55 million of his pork to only 2 NGOs: Read Foundation and Kalusugan ng Bata, Karunungan ng Bayan Inc. or KBKBI.
He is incorporator/stockholder of KBKBI.
Some NGOs provided fake addresses or had moved out before auditors visited them, while others listed ghost beneficiaries.
Story 9: ABAD: #NEWPORK WON’T HAVE NEW NAME
Budget Secretary Florencio Abad says the overhauled allocations for lawmakers will simply follow the names of projects they are funding under each implementing agency.
Abad says there will no longer be lump sum appropriations over which lawmakers have too much discretion.
Media reports and a state audit report revealed how the pork barrel had been misused by dubious non-governmental organizations in recent years.
In the overhauled pork barrel system, Abad says lawmakers can still nominate programs that benefit their constituents, but these have to be specified in each agency’s budget.
Abad says it is not a good idea to totally scrap allocations for lawmakers because some projects with legitimate beneficiaries might get discontinued.
Story 10: BAM AQUINO PROPOSES ‘PEOPLE’S FUND’
Sen Bam Aquino proposes a “People’s Fund” to replace the much maligned pork barrel.
The proposed fund will allow Filipinos to choose where their taxes go.
The proposal comes after thousands marched to Luneta to demand the abolition of the pork barrel.
In a statement Monday, Aquino says, “People are sick and tired of seeing their taxes go to waste…It’s time for the PDAF to go and bring the power back to the people.”
The neophyte senator says the proposed “People’s Fund” seeks to “revolutionize public budgeting and funding” by allowing taxpayers to allocate 5% of their income tax to accredited charities, legitimate political parties, or government projects.
Story 11: NANDO NOW A TROPICAL STORM
State weather bureau Pagasa says Nando — international name Kong-Rey — intensifies into a tropical storm.
It is spotted 270 kilometers east of Casiguran, Aurora.
Storm signal #1 is up over Batanes, Cagayan, Apayao, and Isabela.
The storm is expected to enhance the southwest monsoon, bringing light to occasionally heavy rain and thunderstorms over Southern Luzon.
The rest of Luzon will have cloudy skies with light to moderate rain, while the Visayas and Mindanao will have partly cloudy to cloudy skies with isolated rain.
Story 12: SYRIA OKAYS UN ARMS PROBE AS PRESSURE MOUNTS
Syria bows to international pressure and allows a United Nations investigation into an alleged chemical weapons attack.
The UN team of inspectors are now authorized to carry out the investigation in the Damascus region, where the opposition claims regime forces unleashed chemical weapons, killing more than 1,300 people.
Doctors Without Borders says 355 people died of “neurotoxic” symptoms.
On Saturday, US President Barack Obama discussed Syria with British Prime Minister David Cameron.
Cameron’s office says the two leaders are concerned by “increasing signs that this was a significant chemical weapons attack carried out by the Syrian regime against its own people.”
French President Francois Hollande says there is a –quote– “body of evidence” indicating the Syrian regime is responsible for the August 21 attack.
But in an interview Monday, al-Assad says the claims are an “insult to common sense,” adding the regime would have risked killing its own forces if it used chemical weapons.
He adds, “Such accusations are completely political.”
Story 13: JIHADISTS VOW REVENGE OVER SYRIA CHEMICAL ATTACK CLAIMS
Al-Qaeda-linked Syrian jihadist group Al-Nusra Front promises revenge strikes against villages from President Bashar al-Assad’s community after claims his forces used chemical weapons.
Syria’s main opposition body, the National Coalition, accuses Assad’s forces of killing more than 1,300 people using chemical weapons.
Al-Nusra front chief Abu Mohammed al-Jawlani calls on opposition fighters across the country to take revenge, adding, “One thousand rockets will be used for this purpose.”
Story 14: THE wRap: YOUR WORLD IN ONE READ
At number 7, Anti-Muslim rioters burn shops and homes in Myanmar, as the former army-ruled nation grapples with religious violence.
Rioters burn some 38 houses and 9 businesses during the unrest Saturday, after a Muslim man was arrested for allegedly attempting to rape a Buddhist woman.
The series of incidents of religious unrest shows deep rifts in Buddhist-majority Myanmar.
At number 9, US fashion-wear company American Apparel announces an open call for transgendered or transsexual models.
The search is liberal in defining its broad qualifications, in the spirit of the open-minded LGBT community.
The open call announcement gets appreciation, skepticism, and other responses.
And at number 10, Iconic US singer Linda Ronstadt says she “can’t sing a note,” after Parkinson’s disease stole her voice.
The 67-year-old singer, known for the 1970s hit remakes of “Blue Bayou” and “That’ll Be the Day,” was diagnosed just 8 months ago.
In a recent interview, Ronstadt says the symptoms started appearing as far back as 8 years.
The singer sometimes relies on a cane to walk and uses a wheelchair while traveling.
Parkinson’s is a degenerative nerve disease that causes tremors, stiffness, and slowed movement.
Parkinson’s disease image from Shutterstock
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