MANILA, Philippines—Next Wednesday’s planned rally on Edsa against the congressional pork barrel is shaping up as a baptism of fire for the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority’s new recruits.
During the induction of 120 new traffic enforcers at the agency’s headquarters on Saturday, MMDA chair Francis Tolentino assigned them their first “special task”: to man the roads for a looming mass action on Epifanio de los Santos Avenue on September 11.
Tolentino was referring to the “Edsa Tayo” protest currently being organized, apparently by civilians, through the social networking site Facebook.
According to its event page, Edsa Tayo will be a non-partisan “prayer vigil” at the Edsa Shrine in Ortigas. Taking off from the Million People March to Rizal Park last Aug. 26, Edsa Tayo presses the demand for the “complete abolition of the pork barrel system.”
The Million People March was also organized online by civilians, and was attended by an estimated 100,000 people from all walks of life.
More than 4,000 Facebook users have already expressed their intent to join Edsa Tayo. The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines earlier expressed its support.
Though the Edsa Tayo event page maintains it is not a political rally, the MMDA is still taking precautions, considering Edsa is a major thoroughfare, the mass action is set on a work day, and MMDA is expecting leftist groups to join it.
“Wherever your regular assignments are, it’s cancelled on Sept. 11. You will be at Edsa Shrine. What we will do is to secure the flow of traffic, keep the situation peaceful, ensure no one is hurt, allow the expression of sentiments, ” Tolentino told the MMDA’s recruits.
Tolentino said he expected around 500 personnel to be deployed on Sept. 11, with the MMDA’s new enforcers to be augmented by the Metro Manila Police and the Armed Forces of the Philippines.
Tolentino said he was to meet with the Edsa Tayo organizers and representatives of the National Capital Region Police Office to iron out details on Monday.
MMDA’s fresh blood boosts the force of around 2,000 traffic constables already deployed throughout Metro Manila’s major roads.