The suicide of student Kristel Tejada would never have happened had the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) been used instead for education, health and other social services, an alliance of several faculty members from the University of the Philippines (UP) said, as the group demanded the abolition of the controversial pork barrel fund.
Tejada was a 16-year-old behavioral sciences freshman at UP who committed suicide in March this year. After failing to pay her tuition, Tejada went on leave and took her own life.
The UP Faculty for the Abolition of the Pork Barrel System and the Presidential Pork Barrel Fund on Friday condemned the diversion of the funds in a P10-billion scam linking several legislators to fake nongovernment organizations allegedly formed to siphon off the money to businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles.
“Napoles is not the only one who should be benefiting from this [pork] fat,” convenor and UP professor Gerry Lanuza said in a press conference, adding that the group would go to Congress and Malacañang to urge for the pork barrel’s abolition.
‘Tuwid na daan’
National Artist for Literature Bienvenido Lumbera said writers should stand up to condemn the continued abuse of the PDAF, which he said is only a way for politicians to remain in power.
“Where is this tuwid na daan (straight and narrow road) headed? Is it headed for the banks and savings of a few lawmakers?” he asked.
The UP professors wore the “sablay,” the graduation sash that comes in the university’s official colors of maroon and green and which has traditionally been a symbol of honor and excellence.
In the alliance’s statement, however, the “sablay” was translated to its literal meaning of “anomalous.”
“The pork barrel system is ‘sablay’. Instead of honor and excellence, [it] ends up promoting dishonor and mediocrity,” the statement said.
Vice chancellor for student affairs Marion Tan said Tejada’s suicide would never have happened if only UP had a bigger budget.
“We support the calls to do away with the PDAF and for the taxpayers’ money to go to education, health and other social services,” she said.
With the formation of the alliance, the group hopes to gain the support of other state universities and colleges and even private schools against the pork barrel, professor Sarah Raymundo said.
She added that an online petition would be circulated and later forwarded to the House of Representatives and the Senate, where two bills on the abolition of the PDAF are pending.