The nation is focused today on the march of people protesting the pork barrel scam. If the outrage and trends in the social network are to be the gauge, the indignation rallies nationwide are predicted to have a huge turnout.
The surprising declaration of President Aquino, a known supporter of the pork barrel, to abolish it, and the suddenly snowballing support from the originally resistant lawmakers, are seen as attempts to assuage the public’s escalating outrage against the stinking pork.
Are we standing firm in our stand to get rid of the pork barrel?
It is certainly beyond comprehension why we, the people, tolerated the pervasive and persistent abuse and misuse of public funds by public officials for projects that are irrelevant or did not reach the intended beneficiaries like farmers. Those who came to believe that the pork barrel allocation was a god-given right perceived our patience as a weakness and took advantage of it.
Perhaps citizens have come to believe that it was beyond their power to exact transparency and accountability from the holders of public office. A rare exception happened when the Cebuanos opposed to the flyover projects of Rep. Cutie del Mar asserted and claimed the right to participate in decision-making. The rest is history. Bereft of an updated Cebu City land use plan, amid the vigorous resistance of stakeholders, the flyover projects, concocted without the participation of constituents, never took off.
This freshly revived political mobilization triggered by the now-fugitive Napoles’ pork barrel controversy is a welcome development. It is, in fact, long overdue. If there is any lesson to be learned from this latest scandal, it is that we cannot afford to be complacent forever. Our failure to be involved and to speak out against corruption and illegal practices will haunt us and impact tremendously on the future of our children.
I agree with a friend and fellow Re-imagine Pilipinas colleague, Jan Chavez-Arceo, who said, in her Facebook posting, that to fix the mess, citizens need to be “engaged and actively helping out in any way we can to change the system. It’s also a major lifestyle overhaul for all of us – demand and help create a real culture of transparency, accountability and meritocracy both in the private and public sectors…from each one of us.”
We have to speak out loudly against those who transgress their oath of office. As our friend, Rudy Alix said, “The march on Monday is not a victory march. We will never stop until a full and impartial investigation is concluded, and the guilty will be prosecuted and brought to jail.”
The tried-and-tested antidote to corruption is a fully engaged citizenry. In our own way, we should be agents of change, that mamamayang nakikialam or nagpakabana in our sphere of influence.
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Last Saturday, the young audience was visibly moved by the presentation of our distinguished multi-awarded visitor from Goa, India, Mr. Nirmal U. Kulkarni.
Nirmal is a soft-spoken but passionate advocate for the protection of life’s elements and life forms, and the restoration of areas degraded by unsustainable projects and practices. He immediately captivated the stakeholders from government and largely civil society sectors and the youth, in sharing the experience in studying the rich but threatened biodiversity of the Western Ghats.
He showed a documentary film by Shekar Dattatri, “S.O.S. Save Our Shoals” which provided snap shots of the life in the “shoal” forests. It is a 24-minute film, which, according to Nirmal, actually took five and one half years of hard work to collate. Aside from capturing the beauty of the landscape and the various species, it showed the scars arising from humans’ seemingly unquenchable thirst for exploitation of natural resources and the inspiring successes arising from people’s determined action to protect patches of remaining forests.
The painstaking effort to capacitate children aged 8 to 15 and over, to gather data and document biodiversity through field equipment training program, can be said to be one of the enduring legacies of Mr. Kulkarni and his team to the world. We are privileged indeed that Mr. Kulkarni has this opportunity to share with our people the laudable work he is doing among the kids, the youth and other stakeholders, for nature, his country and our world.
Connecting with the next generation of frontliners is the smartest thing to do. Unfortunately it is not emphasized here, as the youth are “invisibles” in the policy-making process.
It is time that our youth are trained to be empowered, starting at a very young age.
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The public has a chance to participate in various forums organized this week:
August 27, 8 a.m. at AVR2 of the University of Cebu – Konrad Adenauer Stiftung Rule of Law Programme Asia Director Marc Spitzkatz speaks on “Human Rights and the German Constitution.
August 27, 1 p.m. at the Social Hall of the Legislative Building, Cebu City – “Ecotourism Now” features eco-tourism stalwarts such as Aloguinsan Mayor Cynthia Moreno, Cebu city councilor Nestor Archival, Nirmal Kulkarni and Boboi Costas as resource speakers.