Protesters zero in on Aquino, allies
Hundreds of activists march toward the Presidential Palace in Manila to demand that Philippine President Benigno Aquino III prosecute all officials, including some of his allies, who were allegedly involved in stealing from state funds intended for projects to help the poor Thursday, June 12, 2014. VIDEO BY NOY MORCOSO/INQUIRER.net
MANILA, Philippines–A funny thing happened to marchers protesting against the pork barrel in all forms.
Their target turned out to be President Aquino.
Thousands marched on Chino Roces Bridge (Mendiola Bridge), some carrying a huge replica of a pig, while hundreds of others demonstrated in provincial cities in simultaneous protests against the pork barrel scam.
But altogether, less than 10,000 people took part in Thursday’s protests in Manila and other cities—a far cry from the 100,000 protesters who took part in the original antipork rally dubbed Million People March in Manila in August 2013.
Timing their demonstrations to coincide with the celebration of the country’s Independence Day, some protesters wore the red-and-white costumes of the Katipuneros signifying the 19th-century Filipino revolutionary group Katipunan.
In a rally at Bonifacio Shrine in Manila, Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo said the pork scandal should not be used to pin down only the members of the political opposition but also the Aquino administration allies.
“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,” Pabillo told a crowd of 1,000 at Bonifacio Shrine.
About 5,000 protesters rallied at Liwasang Bonifacio before marching toward Malacañang.
The demonstrators, headed by #Abolishpork Movement, slammed the “selective prosecution allegedly designed to protect President Aquino and his allies.”
Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) secretary general Renato Reyes Jr. told the Inquirer the rallies were an expression of the people’s frustration over the administration’s failure to prosecute all those involved in the scam.
“We believe there is a cover-up happening in the [case] and this is meant to protect the President and his allies,” Reyes said.
#Abolishpork Movement said all those implicated in the scam should be investigated and Aquino’s allies should not be spared. It said Budget Secretary Florencio Abad and Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala should step down since their names had been dragged into the scandal.
Both Abad and Alcala have denied any role in the scam.
Among those who showed up at Liwasang Bonifacio were Bayan president Satur Ocampo, activist Mae Paner (aka Juana Change), Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC) chair Dante Jimenez and Archbishop Emeritus Oscar Cruz of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP).
They led in the dumping of balls made to look like pork heads into a makeshift jail where they said the guilty lawmakers should be thrown in.
The crowd chanted in Filipino, “All those involved should be made to answer.”
The protesters later marched on Chino Roces Bridge carrying torches, with a 2.4-meter-tall effigy of a “Golden Baboy (Pig)” leading the way.
Reyes said the effigy symbolized the false idol worshipped by lawmakers implicated in the pork scam.
The protesters, who included the urban poor, concerned citizens and members of church and civil society groups, called for the abolition of the pork barrel and for freedom from corruption.
They were gathered at the shrine by 6.12.14 Protest Coalition under the theme “Answer the Charges or You’re Done.”
They had three demands: scrapping of all forms of pork, accountability in the use of public funds and punishment of all those involved.
“We reiterate our demand that all those who benefited from the pork barrel scam should be made accountable. It has become a cause of great outrage that the administration protects its allies implicated in the pork scam,” said Sr. Mary John Mananzan.
“We challenge the Aquino administration to jail all, including its allies,” labor group Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pilipino said in a statement. Besides Abad and Alcala, the group also claimed that Technical Education and Skills Development Authority chief Joel Villanueva and Senate President Franklin Drilon were also involved.
Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares said the fight against pork should continue since it was “alive and kicking in the 2014 budget.”
Health advocates joined the protest and called for higher allocations for healthcare and basic social services.
Labor groups brought with them empty pots and pans “to highlight the worsening poverty amid the affluence and luxury enjoyed by the trapos (traditional politicians),” said rally leader Leody de Guzman.
The VACC called for an “all-out war” against corruption and all forms of pork barrel.
“On Independence Day, our people should be given hope that they can still be liberated from poverty,” VACC said.
Protests in provinces
Elsewhere in the nation, some 1,350 members of various groups in Cebu, Iloilo, Aklan and Capiz provinces also marked Independence Day by calling for the prosecution of those involved in the pork barrel anomalies.
Protesters on Panay Island also criticized the Aquino administration for the delay in the implementation of rehabilitation programs for victims of Supertyphoon “Yolanda,” which struck seven months ago.
In Cebu, about 300 protesters joined an interfaith rally at Fuente Osmeña Circle to call for the prosecution of those involved in the pork scam.
Cebu-based bands performed at the rally in support of the protest.
Various groups in Cebu will launch a signature campaign on Aug. 23 to push for a bill abolishing all forms of pork barrel.
Msgr. Rommel Kintanar of Cebu Coalition Against the Pork Barrel System urged the prosecution of all those involved in the anomaly.
“We are happy with the progress of the investigation. But we also have our dismay. Why only these three? When will the investigation be completed with others [who are also] involved?” Kintanar said, referring to charges filed against Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada and Bong Revilla.
In Roxas City in Capiz province, 800 protesters marched on the city’s main streets. They also decried the delay in aiding the victims of Yolanda (international name: Haiyan).
About 150 protesters in Iloilo City said Aquino’s allies linked to pork anomalies should be prosecuted.
In Kalibo town, Aklan province, about 100 members of Bayan marched on Kalibo Bridge where a program was held.
In Baguio City, dozens of militants staged a cultural jam session against the PDAF and used songs to express their outrage over the pork barrel scam.
The gathering was attended by students, teachers and lawyers.
Lawyer Jose Olarte, also a folk singer, performed an original song that denounced corruption.
“Ibalik, isauli sa kaban ng bayan/mga kayamanan, mga nakaw na kayamanan (Return all stolen riches to the public coffers),” said Olarte’s song.
Fellow lawyer Nestor Mondok said: “In the long run, what matters is what we will do about corruption and [the people behind it].”
In Pampanga province, militants also held a forum on the pork barrel.–With reports from Carmel Loise Matus and Nestor P. Burgos Jr., Inquirer Visayas; Kimberlie Quitasol and Desiree Caluza, Inquirer Northern Luzon; and Tonette Orejas, Inquirer Central Luzon
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