Masked protesters vow more I-attacks
About 100 protesters belonging to the hackers’ group Anonymous Philippines that claimed responsibility for attacks on 38 government websites marched on the Batasang Pambansa on Tuesday and vowed to continue digital assaults to press demands for the abolition of all pork barrel.
A block away from the House of Representatives building, police armed with truncheons and shields stopped the protesters wearing masks depicting Guy Fawkes, a member of a gang that famously attempted to blow up the House of Lords in London in 1605 and was killed in the process.
The group claims to be an affiliate of the global activist Anonymous that has defaced government websites in several countries. It has taken the mask as its symbol.
“The corrupt fear us. The honest support us. The heroic join us,” read the signs the protesters carried.
“We are here today to press for a new system of government,” said one of the leaders, mostly dressed in black. “We are everyone and anyone. We will not go away and we will continue with our activities.
Justice Secretary Leila de Lima on Tuesday said she had ordered the National Bureau of Investigation to track down those responsible for defacing the government websites, including that of the Ombudsman’s.
She said that the activity had disrupted public service.
“Even if we don’t have the Cybercrime Prevention Law yet because of the temporary restraining order from the Supreme Court, there is an existing law, the E-Commerce Act,” De Lima said. The law imposes a minimum fine of P100,000 and imprisonment from six months to three years, she said.
Initially, the marchers howled in protest when Supt. Eleazar Matta, head of the Batasan police station, told them that they could only stay at the freedom park for security reasons and to prevent traffic congestion. Matta said without a permit, the demonstration could not be allowed.
“But politicians stealing, is that allowed?” asked one, a question that was quickly seconded by the other protesters.
One masked man, who identified himself only as Naked Znake, said the group was focused on denouncing the pork barrel, pushing for the freedom of information bill and the scrapping of the cybercrime law.
More protests could come from the group if there would be no changes in the system, he said. He contended that government leaders were trying to cover up the issues and using the media to manipulate public opinion. He said the group was protesting the system that had allowed anomalies to take place.
According to him, Anonymous Philippines was behind the hacking of government websites. But he added that the group would not pinpoint the individuals involved. Anybody can be part of Anonymous as long as they seek the truth, he said.
‘Don’t turn a blind eye’
“As much as possible, you should be open to the truth, you do not turn a blind eye to what’s happening. You’re not just being idle and not doing what is right. If you allow things to continue as they are, what will happen to the next generation?” he said.
Asked why they chose to wear masks, he said this was to signify that the members of Anonymous were united and were fighting for the same cause.
After several hours, the protesters dispersed. Congress is on a three-week recess, until Nov. 18.
Since allegations about a P10-billion racket involving the diversion to kickbacks of allocations under the congressional Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) were made in July, protests have been held against the pork barrel. The biggest gathering was held at Rizal Park on Aug. 26, drawing around 80,000 to 100,000 in what was billed as the Million People March.
Protests have expanded and have also targeted the little-known Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP). The Department of Budget and Management has admitted that the program was the source of the additional pork of P50 million given to each of the 20 senators who voted to convict Chief Justice Renato Corona last year.
The Supreme Court has scheduled oral arguments on eight petitions to declare the DAP unconstitutional.
In a rare prime-time TV address last Wednesday, President Aquino defended the DAP, saying the issue was corruption and declaring that he was “not a thief.”
The militant groups Anakbayan and Youth Act Now said in a statement that the President’s planned public dialogues to discuss the pork barrel issue was a “cheap PR stunt.” It would be better if he would hold a public debate to be televised live, they said.—With a report from Christine O. Avendaño
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