Quantcast
Napoles
Latest Stories

Hundreds of thousands join people’s march against pork barrel

By , , , ,

MANILA, Philippines—Hundreds of thousands of Filipinos gathered at Luneta Park on Monday to voice outrage at graft-tainted pork barrel fund in the largest demonstration since President Benigno Aquino was elected in 2010 on a platform to fight corruption.

Between 80,000 to 100,000, according to police estimate, turned out including professionals, students, workers, priests, nuns and even civic and showbiz personalities, in a sign of the breadth of anger over graft in the country.

“It was most probably 60,000 to 70,000 during the rally. At most, I would say about 100,000,” said national police spokesman Reuben Sindac.

Organizers said the rally drew as many as 400,000 people.

‘Million People March’

The social media-fuelled rally dubbed the “Million People March” was emulated on a smaller-scale in other cities across the country and in various cities around the world where there are concentrations of Filipinos.

More than 800 police officers and marshals were deployed in key areas of the sprawling park, said Police Superintendent Mannan Muarip, Special Task Group commander.

People gather at the Quirino Grandstand at Rizal Park. JAMIE ELONA/INQUIRER.net

At least 180 soldiers served as backup force in Luneta and along Chino Roces Street (formerly Mendiola).

Colonel Manuel Gonzales, head of Joint Task Force National Capital Region, said soldiers were unarmed and only “have their basic equipment such as shield and baton.”

“They are not allowed to have firearms,” Gonzales said.

The protesters, mostly clad in white, dispersed late afternoon peacefully.

Chief Superintendent Marcelo Garbo Jr., National Capital Region Police Office, said no untoward incident was recorded during the rally.

“We already expected that because the issue here concerns the whole Filipino people,” Garbo said in a phone interview.

Widespread fury

But while few called for the ouster of Aquino, whose personal ratings remain high, there was widespread fury with politicians.

Retired university professor Teodoro Jurado, 80, said “We are all angry at all the stealing of the politicians. We are telling them that time is up.”

Some Manila protesters carried placards saying, “Senators, you should be ashamed of yourselves.” Others wore masks with a picture of a pig’s face, or shirts calling for the abolition of the fund.

Human rights lawyer Harry 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.

Sister Mary John Mananzan, OSB, 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.

Inquirer exposés

Calls for protest began circulating on Facebook and Twitter about two weeks ago after a series of exposés by the Philippine Daily Inquirer about a mammoth scam involving Congress’ Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF).

The PDAF is money allocated for lawmakers to be used in their pet development projects. Critics charge that they fund “pork barrel” projects which have traditionally been a source of corruption.

At the center of the controversy is businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles, who allegedly connived with legislators to syphon off some P10 billion from the fund.

She has since gone into hiding after being charged with the illegal detention of a whistleblower.

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.

Historic event

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.

Middle-aged physician Paz del Rosario, one of the protesters, said she attended “to be part of a historic event.”

Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle (second from left), joins the ‘picnic protest’ with Cathoic priests and seminarians. KRISTINE ANGELI SABILLO/INQUIRER.net

“Hopefully this will be the start of a bigger thing. All walks of life are here. This is from social media, the Internet, tweets and texts. There is no leader here,” she said.

The influential Archbishop of Manila, Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle, called on the crowd to be “honorable” and to work together for the less fortunate.

“Let us look upon the oppressed and the poor as our true brothers. Let us listen to the heartbeat of our nation and the voice of God,” he said.

Tagle said he prayed that people would “fear God, value others, love country, take care of the environment and be honorable above all else. Systems and laws should pave the way for heroism.”

After Tagle’s short talk, the cardinal, who was driven to tears following the expose on the P10 billion pork barrel scam, led the crowd in singing the religious song “Pananagutan.”

Actress Mae Paner, more popularly known as Juana Change, who wore a pig’s snout, a wig and a barrel around her body, said she was joining millions of Filipinos who “want to abolish the pork barrel system in our country.”

Impeached, then heckled

Impeached Chief Justice Renato Corona, who was convicted last year by senators for failing to declare $2.4 million in bank on top of an allegedly commingled amount worth P80.7 million, joined the crowd but left after being heckled by some protesters.

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.

Public school teachers, who are members of the Teachers’ Dignity Coalition, printed their own rally t-shirts with the slogan “Scrap the Pork, Jail the Crooks, Fund our Schools.” They carried posters with the slogan, “Teachers, honest taxpayers.”

“By marching in the streets, we could leave a legacy for our students and our own children, that they will grow up in a country free of corruption and thievery and would make them proud as Filipino people,” TDC chairperson Benjo Basas said.

Tens of thousands of protesters flash thumbs down signs during the rally. AP

Funds misuse

Officials’ misuse of funds has been long embedded and practically accepted in the Philippine political system.

Aquino had previously expanded the PDAF under his 2014 budget so that each senator will receive P200 million while each member of the House of Representatives gets P70 million for their “pork barrel.”

But in the face of growing anger last week, Aquino announced that he was suspending the releases of money and vowed to reform the system.

At a speech marking National Heroes’ Day, Aquino said the government would catch those who stole state funds.

“We will do everything in our power to find those who conspired to take advantage of the PDAF’s good intentions, and to hold them accountable,” he said.

Skeptical

But protesters were skeptical.

“Do it first and don’t be all talk,” Mena Betocabe, a teacher for 35 years, said.  “We are here to join the protest. As a teacher, it is my right to take part in this activity because I am also paying my taxes.”

Filipino Muslims shout slogans as they join a rally at Rizal Park. AP

Rudolfo de Jesus, 47, a vendor from Silang, Cavite, said that he was also doubtful about Aquino’s statement.

“If pork barrel will be removed completely then that’s good, but if he would leave some intact then that would not be right. Everyone should be equal,” de Jesus said in Filipino.

“For me, PDAF should really be abolished, so that the money will really [benefit] the poor,” he added.

Meanwhile, Ryan Oriondo, 37, president of the Nasugbu Bike Club and a businessman, said he believes in Aquino’s pronouncement to abolish the PDAF.

“I just believe him. I hope it really will be abolished,” he said. “I hope they come up with a better way [to use the funds] for our country.”

The misuse of the pork barrel appears to have continued under the watch of Aquino, with huge amounts being funneled into bogus non-government organizations.

Between 2010 and 2012, some P500 million of the PDAF went to fake nongovernment organizations, documents obtained by the Inquirer show. With Dona Z. Pazzibugan and Gil Cabacungan Philippine Daily Inquirer; Agence France-Presse, Associated Press

Aerial shot of the crowd that joined the ‘Million People March.’ Photo courtesy of Architect Paulo Alcazaren


Follow Us

Follow us on Facebook Follow on Twitter Follow on Twitter


Napoles

Recent Stories:

Complete stories on our Digital Edition newsstand for tablets, netbooks and mobile phones; 14-issue free trial. About to step out? Get breaking alerts on your mobile.phone. Text ON INQ BREAKING to 4467, for Globe, Smart and Sun subscribers in the Philippines.

Tags: Graft and Corruption , Janet Lim Napoles , Luneta , million people march , Napoles , Pork barrel , Rizal Park , Social Media




Copyright © 2014, .
To subscribe to the Philippine Daily Inquirer newspaper in the Philippines, call +63 2 896-6000 for Metro Manila and Metro Cebu or email your subscription request here.
Factual errors? Contact the Philippine Daily Inquirer's day desk. Believe this article violates journalistic ethics? Contact the Inquirer's Reader's Advocate. Or write The Readers' Advocate:
c/o Philippine Daily Inquirer Chino Roces Avenue corner Yague and Mascardo Streets, Makati City, Metro Manila, Philippines Or fax nos. +63 2 8974793 to 94
Advertisement
  1. 12 senators on Napoles ‘pork’ list, says Lacson
  2. Save the queen? Aide takes fall for Enrile, Gigi Reyes
  3. Palace prepared to charge its allies
  4. Senator’s kickback from pork bigger than those of Enrile, Estrada, Revilla – Lacson
  5. Napoles turnaround alarms whistle-blowers
  6. What Went Before: Malacañang allies alleged involvement in pork scam
  7. Napoles spills beans on Enrile, Estrada, Revilla – De Lima
  8. Timeline: Napoles tell-all
  9. HK apology: Why Estrada and not Aquino?
  10. Cedric Lee’s cohort flies out of PH despite look-out order – De Lima
  1. Napoles spills beans on Enrile, Estrada, Revilla – De Lima
  2. Gigi Reyes pins blame on aide
  3. Estrada: Gigi Reyes won’t testify vs JPE
  4. Bernice Lee arrested by NBI team
  5. Enrile chief aide back in PH ‘to face charges’
  6. ‘No real progress in PH if dynasties not dismantled’
  7. Suspect in Vhong Navarro’s mauling wants to turn state witness – De Lima
  8. Reckless driver endangered lives of Aquino, entourage–report
  9. More legal woes for Cedric Lee
  10. Henares on Pacquiao bashing: I did not start this
  1. KL confirms Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370 ended in Indian Ocean
  2. MRT passengers pass the hat for 6-year-old Ashley
  3. Rookie, lady cops lauded for quick response to MOA heist
  4. Malaysia averts another air tragedy; pilot lands troubled plane safely
  5. Revilla says he was joking; Lacson stands by his story
  6. Revilla ‘consulted’ Lacson on how he evaded arrest
  7. Cudia, dismissed for lying, got 99% in conduct
  8. Kim Henares needs a reprimand, says Cayetano
  9. Hammer-wielding robbers cause chaos at Philippines’ Mall of Asia
  10. Napoles spills beans on Enrile, Estrada, Revilla – De Lima
Advertisement

News

  • Drilon denies involvement in pork scam
  • Complex health care system for California’s elderly and poor explained
  • Malang the croc must regain strength before return to swamp, says mayor
  • Palace: Lacson’s version of Napoles testimony to be evaluated
  • Scientists eye iceberg bigger than Guam
  • Sports

  • Promoters Dela Hoya, Arum in talks for Pacquiao-Alvarez—report
  • Benzema guides Madrid to 1-0 win over Bayern
  • Suns’ Goran Dragic win NBA’s Most Improved Player award
  • Heat go up 2-0, hold off Bobcats 101-97
  • Ronaldo shakes off injury fears to play Bayern
  • Lifestyle

  • Gongs and southern dances star in a workshop at San Francisco Bayanihan Center
  • This woman ate what?
  • Photos explore dynamics of youths’ sexual identity
  • 12th Philippine Food Expo set at the World Trade Center
  • No tourist draw, Malang the croc will remain wild
  • Entertainment

  • Smithsonian wants photos, videos for ‘Day in the Life of Asian Pacific Americans’
  • What Garcia Marquez left behind
  • Has Ai Ai fallen deeply with ‘sireno?’
  • Sony developing live-action Barbie comedy
  • California court won’t review Jackson doctor case
  • Business

  • How ‘one percent’ economic elite was uncovered
  • Facebook profits triple as mobile soars
  • Insular Honors Sales Performers at Testimonial Rites
  • Apple increases stock buyback, will split stock
  • Cost-recovery provisions for affected gencos urged
  • Technology

  • Enrile in Masters of the Universe, Lord of the Rings?
  • Top Traits of Digital Marketers
  • No truth to viral no-visa ‘chronicles’
  • ‘Unlimited’ Internet promos not really limitless; lawmakers call for probe
  • Viber releases new design for iPhone, comes to Blackberry 10 for the first time
  • Opinion

  • Editorial cartoon, April 24, 2014
  • Talking to Janet
  • Respite
  • Bucket list
  • JPII in 1981: walking a tightrope
  • Global Nation

  • Obama to visit Filipino soldiers in Fort Bonifacio
  • Fil-Am youth conferences unite under one theme
  • Embassy advisory: Filipinos still need visas to enter US
  • No travel restriction to Mideast, DFA clarifies
  • PH-HK relations repaired, but families of victims still being courted
  • Marketplace
    Advertisement