Aquino leads Freedom Day rites in Naga City
MANILA, Philippines–President Aquino leads the nation on Thursday in celebrating the 116th anniversary of Philippine Independence in Naga City, Camarines Sur province.
But Aquino’s decision to hold the rites in a city 260 kilometers from the capital does not mean he was “running away” from a rally against the pork barrel in Manila, presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said Wednesday.
“[It is] not in any way related to the fact that there is a ScrapPork Network rally tomorrow. They’re free to do that. We have a vibrant democracy,” Lacierda told a news briefing in Malacañang.
Other regions’ contributions
Lacierda said the President had been “moving around the country to show, to highlight the contribution of the regions in the struggle for independence.”
One such place is Naga City, where the President will pay tribute to the 15 Bicolano martyrs (“Los Quince Martires”) at the plaza named in their honor, he said.
Three of the martyrs, all deemed ilustrados during their time, were priests—Gabriel Prieto, Severino Diaz and Innocencio Herrera.
The others were businessmen and people who held positions in Spanish colonial society: Ramon Abella, Manuel Abella, Domingo Abella, Leon Hernandez, Tomas Prieto, Cornelio Mercado, Mariano Ordenanza, Macario Valentin, Mariano Melgarejo, Mariano Arana, Florencio Lerma and Camilo Jacob.
Naga Councilor Gabriel Bordado said the plaza was chosen for the event mainly because of its contribution to history, “plus the fact that Naga is one of the oldest cities in the Philippines, next only to Cebu and Manila.”
Rites in other places
Besides the rites in Naga City, the National Historical Commission said simultaneous flag-raising and wreath-laying ceremonies would be held at Rizal Park in Manila; Emilio Aguinaldo Shrine in Kawit, Cavite; Barasoain Church Historical Landmark in Malolos, Bulacan; Pinaglabanan Memorial Shrine in San Juan City; Bonifacio National Monument in Caloocan City; Mausoleo de los Veteranos de la Revolucion, North Cemetery, Manila; and Pamintuan House in Angeles City.
From Naga City, the President will fly back to Manila to host the annual vin d’honneur for members of the diplomatic corps at 11 a.m. in Malacañang.
Groups opposed to pork barrel and lump-sum appropriations in the government budgeting system will hold a rally at Liwasang Bonifacio in Manila.
“We challenge Mr. Aquino to go after all abusers of [the] Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), whether they are [from] the opposition or his ruling coalition,” the ScrapPork Network said in a statement.
The Ombudsman last Friday filed plunder charges against Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada and Ramon Revilla Jr., businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles and five others in the Sandiganbayan over the P10-billion pork barrel scam.
Under fire for allegedly sparing its political allies, Malacañang insisted that the Department of Justice would evaluate cases based on evidence, “whether you are friend or foe.”
“We’ve already filed a case against an ally of the President,” Lacierda said, apparently referring to former Customs Commissioner Ruffy Biazon.
“So, we are color blind as to culpability. When the DOJ determines that there is sufficient ground to file a case against you, it will be forwarded to the Office of the Ombudsman, and we have not hesitated to do so,” he said.–With reports from Juan Escandor Jr. and Shiena Barrameda, Inquirer Southern Luzon
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