MANILA, Philippines – Proponents of the “Million People March” urged the public not to give up and continue their cause by calling for change and justice.
Just before the noontime noise barrage, Peachy Bretana, one of the first to call for a “picnic protest” on National Heroes Day, thanked the participants for joining them.
“We have found our voice,” she said, addressing the crowd near the Quirino Grandstand.
Thousands trooped to Luneta on Monday to protest against the pork barrel system that has been rocked by a scandal that centered on a powerful businesswoman Janet Lim Napoles who allegedly collaborated with senators and congressmen in channeling some of the funds and went into hiding after she was charged with illegal detention of a whistle-blower.
Critics say the system promotes corruption, with citizens’ and pressure groups calling on protest Aquino abolish the practice.
A number of people gravitated towards the “command center” of the protesters where civil society personalities were allowed to give short speeches, amid the initial plan not to have any centralized program.
In addition to Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle, human rights lawyer Harry Roque and Sister Mary John Mananzan, OSB, gave their speeches over the public address system.
Roque complained that those who are stealing money from the people are the ones who are in Congress. “If we want citizens to follow the law, the leaders should be the ones to follow first,” he said.
“Jail them!” cried someone from the crowd.
Sr. Mary John Mananzan also called for the abolition of the “presidential pork barrel” or the President’s Social Fund.
“Fifty percent of our budget is discretionary! What we want is a fundamental revamp of the budgetary system,” she said.
Meanwhile, smaller groups were scattered across the muddy field, joining in the chants from time to time.
Luneta Park was filled with “picnic protesters” by Monday noon.
Bretana urged participants to walk around and join discussions held by other organizations.
Several civil society groups and peoples organizations set up discussion areas near Roxas Boulevard while others showed off their protest paraphernalia. Several groups of musicians also performed in various parts of the park.
Bretana said Monday’s protest became a “citizen-led democratic exercise” with everyone united in the calls to scrap the Priority Development Assistance Fund and to have a transparent investigation.