MANILA, Philippines – Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada has said he would allow Monday’s “Million People March” to the Luneta or Rizal Park to protest the continued use of congressional pork barrel funds even if no one has applied for a permit.
“It’s a free country. They’re free to express their sentiments. No need to get a permit as long as they will ensure that the rally will be peaceful,” Estrada, who was ousted as president of the Philippines in a popular uprising in 2001 over allegations that he received payoffs from illegal gambling, told Philippine Daily Inquirer editors and reporters at a roundtable interview on Thursday night.
“Even when I was President, I never stopped all those rallies in front of Malacañang. At my first Sona, I let them inside,” Estrada said, referring to his State of the Nation Address in 1998, during which he also said that the Priority Development Assistance Fund or the pork barrel should be abolished.
“Projects should belong to the executive. Legislators are there to make laws,” Estrada reiterated on Thursday.
Calls for the Million People March on Monday, August 26, took shape in a social networking site to show outrage over the P10-billion pork barrel scam involving senators and congressmen accused of pocketing public funds through bogus nongovernmental organizations put up by Janet Lim-Napoles.
“Before, I saw her in one party,” Estrada replied when asked if he knew Napoles.
A Commission on Audit report showed that Estrada’s son, Senator Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada, had given P191.58 million in PDAF to Napoles-linked NGOs.
Asked what advice he would give his son, Estrada said, “Face the music just like I faced the music.”