Million People March marches onBy Christian V. Esguerra
Philippine Daily Inquirer
“Tuloy ang marcha!” (The march will go on!)
Despite President Benigno Aquino III’s statement on Friday about plans to abolish the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF, also known as pork barrel), netizens vowed to push through with the Million People March on Monday at the Luneta to register their disgust and outrage over the misuse of public funds.
“Tuloy pa rin ang MARCHA!!! Ano yan bata, bigay kita kendi, huwag ka na marcha … (the march will go on. What are we, children? Give us candy and we’d stop the march?),” netizen Gemma Cerdino-Zeller posted on Inquirer.net’s Facebook page.
Most netizens were caught off guard by President Aquino’s sudden turnabout on the pork barrel that he said early this week could still be salvaged with a few tweaks on its implementation.
But his statement on its abolition drew suspicion from some quarters, including the social media where the idea for the march was originally hatched.
“Suddenly nabulaga si P-Noy. Ano ito? Para ba di na matuloy ang protesta? Tuloy tayo sa Luneta! (What’s this? A ploy so we’d drop the march? On to Luneta!)” commented reader Cesar M. de los Reyes (@Tito_Ces).
Organizers were as determined to push through with the march.
“We will proceed, to be sure,” said Raymond Bandril. “Abolition is not the only thing we want. We want justice and to make the culprits answerable.”
In fact, the Million People March group has started its own “selfie protest campaign” by encouraging netizens to come up with their own personal protest photos to be posted on Facebook and Twitter.
Organizers say one million people are expected to join Monday’s rally at Luneta—a protest “picnic” initiated by Facebook users incensed by the report of the Commission on Audit that much of the PDAF funds have been pocketed by senators, congressmen and their allies through a network of nongovernment organizations.
Similar rallies are planned in Cagayan de Oro, Davao City, Iloilo City, Dagupan City and Baguio City.
‘Off limits’ to politicians
Bandril, who refused to identify his group, said they were targeting some 100,000 participants, said the mass action must be “off-limits” to politicians who enjoyed their share of the pork barrel.
“We don’t want politicians to hijack the mass action,” he said. “Besides, we can’t control the sudden burst of emotions there.”
Similarly, the Negrosanons Kontra Korapsyon said that its indignation rally called “Tipon Tipon sa Lagoon” will go on as planned at 9 on Monday morning in front of the provincial capitol building in Bacolod City, Negros Occidental.
Raymund Javellana, president of the Alliance of Negrense Tourism Stakeholders, said they would proceed with their rally in Bacolod because “the pork barrel might be scrapped and introduced under a different name.”
Diego Malacad, secretary general of the United Negros Drivers Operators Center, said his group has not received any advice calling off their protest rally.
Expected to swell
In Davao City, the number of antipork barrel protesters was expected to swell as the Jesuit-run Ateneo de Davao University (AdDU) expressed its support for the campaign calling for the abolition of the much abused fund.
Fr. Joel Tabora SJ, AdDU president, posted on his Twitter and Facebook accounts that he was personally encouraging Catholic schools, workers and professionals in the city to join the protest march slated here on Monday.
“Let working people think of money withheld in taxes from their salaries, then come to Rizal Park Monday in indignation versus PDAF corruption,” Tabora wrote.
In Cebu, the protest march would instead be called a “people’s victory,” according to human rights lawyer Democrito Barcenas.
“What is there to protest when the President has already removed the pork barrel? Let’s convert that (protest action) into a people’s victory march,” Barcenas said, adding that “the leadership changed its (mind) because it was pressured by the strong clamor from the people.”
The activity in Cebu will start at 8 a.m. at Fuente Osmeña and will proceed to Plaza Independencia in downtown Cebu City.
A Mass to call for discernment on political corruption is also scheduled at Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral at 8 a.m.
Despite the call from various groups to keep the march free of political color, militant and leftist groups have signified their intention to join the protest action.
“The people must persist in abolishing the pork barrel system. On with the Aug. 26 rally as an opening salvo for bigger rallies to come,” Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares said in a statement.
ACT Teachers Rep. Antonio Tinio said Mr. Aquino’s plan to replace the PDAF with a better version could be a case of “the same dog with a different collar.”
Tinio noted that the President “limited his statements to the PDAF, making no mention whatsoever regarding the abolition of the far larger presidential pork.”
Other netizens credited the snowballing support for the march to the President’s change of mind.
Commented wawa2172 on Inquirer.net: “That’s the power of People Power Court, manginginig sa hindik ang kahit president ng Pinas. Now, P-Noy is singing another tune and it’s the opposite of what he sang the first time he showed his face to talk about PDAF. He was for the retention of PDAF; now he has an about-face. Go August 26, tuloy pa rin tayo sa Luneta … abolish PDAF … (Even the President of the Philippines shudders before People Power Court. Let’s push through our march on Luneta!)
Popular blogger and Internet personality, Professional Heckler (@HecklerForever) said something was not right with Mr. Aquino’s recent statement on the PDAF. “Suddenly, everyone wants the pork barrel scrapped. Three days before the Luneta rally. Well played guys. Well played. But sure, why not!?”
Echoed Jesusa Chun: “Such a sudden turnaround!!! Something is fishy here …. days ago you don’t want to scrap it and even increased the allocation!! As President of this country, you should have been the first to suggest the abolition of PDAF but no, you didn’t!! Why?? Coz u are also part of this hullaballo of corruption!! There is no DAANG MATUWID (straight path) after all!!! $&@#%€£¥!!!
Warned @jihanLian2 posted on Twitter: “No PDAF for now but they are cooking new mechanics of use of funds. Bantay-bantay din baka maluto ang taong-bayan sa sariling mantika. (Tight guarding still needed lest people get fooled.) Lol.”
Tweeted protest figure @juanachange: “We are getting results and sooner than we think. But words are different from action. Tuloy tayo (Let’s go on!)”
Tabora said that while he welcomed President Aquino’s statement about bringing in reforms in the budgetary allocation, the abolition of the pork barrel “is in the hands of the legislators, for whom PDAF has become a habit—for good or ill. For this reason, the clear manifestation of the people’s will relevant to pork and the PDAF on Monday and beyond, is essential.”
Tabora also expressed concern about the Senate’s and the House’s refusal to look into the pork barrel scam.
“Until PDAF misuse is investigated and (those responsible for it) punished, where is the moral obligation for hard-working people to continue paying taxes? God will punish corrupt people for all eternity. Meanwhile, we must take care of what happens now,” he said. With reports from Ramon Royandoyan in Manila; Jhunnex Napallacan and Carla P. Gomez, Inquirer Visayas; Karlos Manlupig and Allan Nawal, Inquirer Mindanao
First posted 12:29 am | Saturday, August 24th, 2013