Aquino told to stop shielding allies from pork barrel scam probe
MANILA, Philippines—The collective rage against the pork barrel scam continues to simmer, and the group behind mass protests against the system would see to it that the President’s allies are not spared efforts to clean up the mess from the explosive revelations.
Manila Auxilliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo, speaking at an anti-pork barrel rally on Independence Day, said the controversy should not be used as a political issue just meant to pin down members of the opposition.
“It’s not just those in the opposition who were involved in the pork barrel issue, but also those who are allies. All those involved should be prosecuted, and not just a few should be brought down because of the issue,” Pabillo told a crowd of about a thousand who had massed up at the Bonifacio Shrine in Manila.
President Aquino has spoken up in defense of his allies who have been implicated in the controversy, saying there seems to be a dearth of evidence against them.
Pabillo noted that most of those implicated in the alleged misuse of public funds have professed their innocence.
He challenged them to go on leave if their hands are really clean, just to allow the investigation to proceed without any chance of them exerting influence over it.
“They don’t have to resign, they could just go on leave for six months so that a proper investigation could be done,” he said.
He joined the condemnation of the pork barrel system, noting that despite so much funds being circulated, so many Filipinos have remained poor.
He also noted that President Aquino’s election slogan “kung walang corrupt, walang mahirap [if there is no corruption, there would be no poor people]” has not been heard of lately.
There are many poor people in the country, so this could either mean his slogan was wrong, that there could be poverty even if there’s no corruption, or it could mean there is corruption, which is why there are so many poor people, according to Pabillo.
“If what he is saying is correct, then this is a reminder to him that there is still corruption,” he added.
Pabillo also said Congress should have no use for pork barrel. If Congress could not function without it, that would mean it was a hopeless institution, he added.
“Congress was not created because of the pork barrel,” he said.
The rally organizers ScrapPork Network, in its unity statement on the independence day protests, lamented the coddling of political allies as well as the slow grind of justice.
The group said the government must prosecute all those involved in the pork barrel scam and jail the guilty. And by “all,” it means even the President’s friends.
“If you refuse to even start an investigation, then you are coddling the corrupt. We address this to you, President Aquino: Start acting like the President of the nation, not just of your friends. Let the wheels of justice turn and give much-needed closure to this travesty,” it said.
It also said much has been lost because of the slow pace of the probe.
“The painfully slow progress in the investigation and prosecution of the pork scandals involving Janet Lim-Napoles’ network, among others, robs the nation blind in the realms of justice and transparency, and steals energy that could otherwise be focused on development tasks,” it said.
“From the camps of those already named in plunder cases, all the way to President Aquino, what we see are efforts to tar enemies but coddle allies,” it added.
It also condemned efforts to divert people’s attention away from the issue and to delay its progress.
“The delays and theatrics, whether by the current crop of suspects or the incumbent administration, make a mockery of the basic tenets of Philippine democracy,” it said.
Also speaking out against selective justice was the Kilusang KontraPork, one of the participants in Thursday’s rally.
The group said Malacañang was wrong to think that the people could not see through the palace’s hypocrisy of applying a double standard in going after those who plundered the nation’s coffers.
“The admonition that ‘you cannot fool the people all of the time’ applies here as well,” it said in a statement.
It further said that while going after Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Ramon “Bong” Revilla, Jr. and Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada was an important step, it was nothing more than a good start. The issue is more than just jailing the guilty, and should be about reforms, according to the group.
“It is about dismantling the very system that breeds Enriles, Estradas, and Revillas. It is about the system that gets them elected. It is about the system that has kept people like them out of the reach of justice for so long,” it said.
Two anti-pork barrel rallies were held in Manila on Thursday. One was at the Bonifacio Shrine beside the Manila City Hall, and the other was at the Liwasang Bonifacio in front of the Manila Post Office. The two gatherings exchanged speakers and guests.