While many walked, ran and even biked, others sang, prayed, chanted, danced and painted in a nationwide expression of disgust over the perceived misuse of public funds from the pork barrel allocated to legislators.
People took to the streets and squares in at least 30 cities and towns from north to south of the country on Monday to join the mass outpouring of anger over pork irregularities at the Million People March in Manila’s Luneta Park.
The protests were held despite President Aquino’s announcement on Friday of his decision to abolish the pork barrel and to put in place a “new mechanism” to check its abuse. He also vowed to go after those who were involved in the fund irregularities.
Archbishop Socrates Villegas, the incoming president of the influential Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), were among the bishops who appeared in the outdoor gatherings.
“This is people’s money and not of the government official,” Villegas said at Freedom Park in Dagupan City. “So, if the boss says he does not want the way his money is used, he should listen to the boss.”
He said it was not enough that Malacañang had put up a new system for allocating what used to be the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF).
“What we, the people, are asking is for him to eliminate corruption, and this has to be seen [by the people], not only heard,” Villegas said. “We can only do this through honest living, with the country in mind and not selfish interests.”
‘Chop the Pork’
In Cebu City, Auxiliary Bishop Julito Cortes called on the President to “listen to the people” while officiating a Mass at Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral.
Around 3,200 people in white shirts marched from Fuente Osmeña to Plaza Independencia, where reggae musician Errol “Budoy” Marabiles was loudly applauded when he sang “Chop the Pork.”
The event was organized by Movement for Liveable Cebu (MLC) and was participated by some organizations like Brotherhood of Christian Businessmen and Professionals, Dilaab Foundation Inc. and students and teachers from the University of the Philippines Cebu campus.
No speeches were allowed, but participants were encouraged to write a letter to the President on any sentiments against the pork barrel on a cartolina.
In Bacolod City, around 2,000 people, this time wearing black T-shirts, massed in front of the Capitol building, chanted “Ibasura ang pork barrel! (Scrap the pork barrel),” sang “Bayan Ko” with raised fists, and danced to an Ilonggo rap song about greedy thieves in the government.
Sixteen artists of Dihistan Naghiliugyon sa Negros (Dihon) painted pigs and suffering Filipinos on a 12-by-8 foot canvas beside the makeshift stage.
“The mural is a collective work of artists. It is the result of collective discussion. We consider the plight of suffering Filipinos as our own. We are committed to record history,” said Raphael Bordeos, a senior member of Dihon.
In San Carlos City, some 30 youths staged a protest in front of Center Mall.
In Iloilo City, 700 people gathered on the Capitol grounds to show their opposition to the pork barrel through placards, poems, songs, caricatures and chants.
‘We Are Ashamed’
In a Hiligaynon poem titled “Huya Man Ta (We Are Ashamed),” Palanca awardee Marcel Milliam lashed at the disparity of the lifestyle of corrupt officials compared with those of average Filipinos.
Members of the Makabayan coalition held a picket at Crossing Banga in Kalibo, the capital town of Aklan. Some 300 Church leaders and students joined a prayer rally in front of Roxas City Metropolitan Cathedral in Capiz.
In Tacloban City, around 300 people held a rally at Remedios Trinidad Romualdez (RTR) Plaza, the city’s main freedom park. There were no speeches, but those present discussed the evils of the pork barrel.
Nearby, about 50 militants held a 30-minute rally along Rizal Avenue.
In Naval, Biliran, some 60 people sang “Bayan Ko” at Naval Gymnasium, according to lawyer Edna Honor. They also signed a manifesto against the pork barrel.
In Catbalogan City, 50 people wearing white T-shirts joined a protest run initiated by Samar Runners Club.
Kidlat Tahimik’s ‘bulul’
Auxiliary Bishop Pablo Virgilio David spoke during a solidarity Mass and a forum in Angeles City, rallying about 1,000 people to demand accountability for the funds that “went deep into the pockets of people inside and outside government.”
In Bataan, Bishop Ruperto Santos assailed those involved in the abuse of pork during a Mass attended by more than 2,000 people at the Balanga Cathedral in Balanga City. “It is shameful and sinful, plain stealing, where the poor and needy are further exploited and made to suffer again and again,” he said in his homily.
In Olongapo City, about 400 people, mostly members of religious groups, marched from Columban College to Rizal Triangle near City Hall.
In Baguio City, more than 200 people gathered at Burnham Park’s Rose Garden, Malcolm Square (People’s Park) and Igorot Park to denounce the abuse of pork barrel funds.
Filmmaker Kidlat Tahimik and other local artists arranged several “bulul” (rice granary guardian) in a circle, and at its center stood an image of a man carrying a pig. “Let’s leave the pork to the cañao (ritual feast),” Tahimik said in jest.
In Santiago City, protesters wearing red attended a Mass at St. James Parish before they marched on the streets. Others attended Mass at San Jacinto Church in Tuguegarao City, which was officiated by Archbishop Sergio Utleg.
In Bulacan province, Isagani Giron, a local historian, joined about 500 cyclists of Siklistang Bulakenyo (Bulacan Cyclists), who turned up in black at the provincial capitol before they set off to join the march at Luneta Park.
Intermittent to heavy rains did not prevent people from converging in parks in Legazpi City and Naga City.
In Lucena City, at least 80 people took shelter in a manmade cave at Perez Park and called on President Aquino to totally scrap the PDAF. The cave once served as a bandstand for performing musicians in the 1920s and 1930s.
In Cavite, about 400 protesters wearing shirts marked with names of party-list groups held marches in Dasmariñas and Bacoor cities, and Rosario town.
But they skipped the ancestral mansion of Sen. Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr.’s family along the Aguinaldo Highway in Bacoor. Revilla was among the senators being linked to alleged pork barrel scam brains Janet Lim-Napoles.
In Naga City, some 100 academicians, prosecutors and local officials gathered at Plaza Rizal as clergy members led by Archbishop Rolando Tria Tirona were preparing to hold a rally at 4 p.m.
In Legazpi City, at least 100 militants marched for 3 kilometers from Peñaranda Park to Pinaglabanan Park, bearing streamers with antipork slogans.
Around 30 people led by Brotherhood of Christian Businessmen and Professionals went on a motorcade around Calapan City and converged at the plaza in a show of protest.
“People whom we trusted were the ones who stole the money intended for the benefit of the people, especially the poor. The people were robbed of their rights and opportunities to improve their lives,” said Judge Manolo Brotonel.
At least 300 people massed up at the Baywalk area in Puerto Princesa City to express indignation against the lawmakers’ use of the pork barrel. Among them was the family of journalist Gerry Ortega, who was believed to have been killed for his exposé on the misuse of Malampaya funds by the previous Arroyo administration in the form of pork and to bankroll projects identified by local politicians.
‘Prosecute to fullest’
In Davao City, at least 2,000 people joined the rally at Rizal Park. Hundreds of students of Ateneo de Davao University, nuns and militants marched for about a kilometer from Freedom Park.
“We are tired of this. We are sick of it. We demand change,” said Fr. Joel Tabora, S.J., university president and one of the rally speakers. “We demand nothing less than prosecution to the fullest extent of the law for those individuals who have gravely abused their discretion and violated the people’s trust.”
In Zamboanga City, some 3,000 people marched on Normal Road to Plaza Pershing in a protest action dubbed “El Pueblo Unido Contra Robo-Marcha de Zamboanga Contra Corrupcion (The City Is United against Robbers-Zamboangueños March against Corruption).”
They included businessmen, lawyers, doctors, students, teachers, priests, human rights and social workers, informal settlers and urban poor dwellers.
Similar marches were held in the cities of Cagayan de Oro, General Santos and Kidapawan.
On Sunday, Archbishop Antonio Ledesma of the Archdiocese of Cagayan de Oro issued a pastoral letter expressing its sentiments on the issue of the squandered PDAF.
“This is a grave, immoral act … we are deeply indignant over the scam knowing that our people are barely catching their breath just to live in very poor conditions; and yet some of our legislators have the nerve to hoard the coffers of the people to go into their own pockets for self-aggrandizement,” the letter said.—Reports from Carla Gomez, Nestor Burgos Jr., Felipe Celino, Jhunnex Napallacan, Carmel Matus Jr. and Joey Gabieta, Inquirer Visayas; Gabriel Cardinoza, Yolanda Sotelo, Vincent Cabreza, Villamor Visaya Jr. and Kimberlie Quitasol, Inquirer Northern Luzon; Tonette Orejas, Carmela Reyes-Estrope, Robert Gonzaga and Greg Refraccion, Inquirer Central Luzon; Maricar Cinco, Romulo Ponte, Delfin Mallari Jr., Shiena Barrameda, Juan Escandor Jr., Mar Arguelles, Madonna Virola and Redempto Anda, Inquirer Southern Luzon; and Karlos Manlupig, Julie S. Alipala, Aquiles Z. Zonio, Williamor Magbanua and Cai Panlilio, Inquirer Mindanao