Two University of the Philippines professors—a former socioeconomic planning secretary and a former national treasurer—will deliver lectures on Wednesday afternoon at the Edsa Shrine during the “Edsa Tayo” (Let’s Go to Edsa) vigil, which seeks to abolish the graft-ridden pork barrel system.
Among the organizers of the prayer vigil in Quezon City are journalists, writers, photographers, film directors, graphic designers and artists.
Following a Mass to be celebrated by the Edsa Shrine rector, the lectures will be conducted by Winnie Monsod and Leonor Briones, organizers said.
Monsod is a former director general of the National Economic and Development Authority, while Briones is a former head of the Bureau of Treasury.
“We are for the abolition of the pork barrel and not just the abolition of the PDAF (or the Priority Development Assistance Fund) because that is just a small portion of this whole corrupt system,” Junep Ocampo, one of the organizers, said on Tuesday.
Ocampo said Edsa Tayo was not a political rally. “We are not here to overthrow the government. We are here to pray and start a prayer vigil against pork barrel, which we believe is the root of many ills in our society today,” he said.
Ocampo said banners, placards, effigies, bullhorns and even T-shirts with political slogans would be discouraged during the prayer vigil.
“As for our core group and the rest of the volunteers, we will be wearing white. Just plain white, to show that we have no political color. Even the vigil candle will just be white,” he said.
“It symbolizes the purity of our intentions. And it also shows our practicality. The white candle is cheaper,” he added.
“(Monsod and Briones) will show that there are ‘pork barrel’ allotments for the President down to the SK (Sangguniang Kabataan). These should all be scrapped,” Ocampo said.
The vigil is scheduled to begin at 11 a.m., with Fr. Nilo Mangussad celebrating Mass at 12 p.m.
Ocampo said Monsod and Briones will hold their lectures between 1 p.m. and 2 p.m. before the interfaith gather from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m.
“There will be Muslims, Christians, indigenous peoples who will attend. We will be done by 4 p.m. and won’t disrupt any schedule,” he said.
3 schools hold rally
Coinciding with the vigil is the rally on Wednesday afternoon to be jointly staged by students, teachers and administrators of the UP, Ateneo de Manila University and Miriam College in Quezon City. The rally is dubbed “KKK: Katipunan Kontra Korupsyon.”
“This is a nonpartisan event organized by the student councils and administrations of Ateneo de Manila University, UP Diliman and Miriam College to call for transparency and accountability in government,” they said in a statement on Tuesday.
The UP, Ateneo and Miriam have “allied for a common call to end the culture of corruption, increase accountability in the government and prioritize the budget for basic social services,” it added.
The rally participants from the three universities will converge at the Miriam College Gate 1 before the start of the program at 5 p.m.
The vigil at the Edsa Shrine is expected to gather 5,500 people. It comes more than two weeks after the Million People March at Luneta Park in Manila that drew some 70,000 people outraged by the misuse of the PDAF, the official name of the pork barrel that funds pet projects of lawmakers aimed at getting votes.
Protests against the pork barrel system were also staged on Aug. 26 in other urban centers across the country and overseas.
Let voices be heard
Organizers of the vigil on Tuesday obtained a permit from Quezon City Mayor Herbert Bautista, who said he issued it to give participants a means through which they can let their voices be heard on issues affecting our country.
Ocampo said he and his friends came up with Edsa Tayo to keep the momentum started by the the Million People March in Luneta on Aug. 26.
“We believe that the demand for the complete abolition of the pork barrel system must continue. The demand must now be taken to Edsa, a place where Filipinos have shown a united stand on several occasions in history,” he said.
Ocampo said a vigil candle will be lit during the gathering and would remain in the Edsa Shrine for one week.
“Every 6 to 7 p.m. every night for the next days will be devoted to a talk on pork barrel and why it must be abolished. After seven days, the candle will be transferred to any church, school, office or organization that wishes to host it,” he said.
“It will come with a study guide and a copy of the prayer. If there are numerous requests, we shall be procuring more candles to accommodate everyone. Those who get the candle are also encouraged to replace the candle with a new one so others can also host it,” Ocampo said.
Following a meeting with the heads of the Quezon City Police District and the local department of public order and safety (DPOS), Bautista issued the permit to organizers of the prayer vigil.
Bautista allowed Edsa Tayo participants to assemble and conduct the activity from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. and tasked the QCPD and the DPOS with ensuring that the flow of traffic was unobstructed and the participants secure.
The applications for a permit for the Edsa Tayo activity had been filed by Ocampo and the One Movement of the University of the Philippines.
Elmo San Diego, Quezon City DPOS head, said he would deploy 400 traffic enforcers and medical personnel for the activity as early as 5 a.m. to ensure that there was no obstruction along major thoroughfares.
While rerouting of vehicular traffic is being considered as an alternative, San Diego reminded the prayer vigil participants that the flyovers were off-limits to them.
The Edsa Shrine and the southbound lane of Edsa fall under the territorial jurisdiction of Quezon City. Its other boundaries are shared by the cities of San Juan, Pasig and Mandaluyong.
No backpack policy
The Philippine National Police said close to 3,000 police personnel would be deployed in the vicinity of Edsa Shrine.
“The police have already ironed out various security preparations for the event, including crowd control, traffic management and other basic security operations,” Senior Supt. Reuben Theodore Sindac, the PNP spokesperson, said at a news briefing at Camp Crame.
Chief Supt. Marcelo Garbo Jr., the National Capital Regional Police Office chief, said the entire police forces in Metro Manila would be placed on full alert, the equivalent of a red alert in the military, starting at 6 a.m. today.
Sindac reminded participants not to bring backpacks and expensive gadgets to the event. “The police will implement a ‘no-backpack policy.’ As what had happened in the past here and abroad, backpacks were conveniently used to hide bombs,” he said.—With a report from Marlon Ramos