Even when the organizers of yesterday’s Edsa Tayo prayer rally had lowered their expectations, the meager turnout estimated at 900 was still extremely disappointing.
This is because the targeted number of participants was 5,000.
Their declaration that “around 5,000” actually attended was stretching the truth to its extreme limits, to say the least.
So what went wrong with the rally?
In a word, plenty. The afternoon before, a sudden heavy rainfall turned caused traffic in main thoroughfares like Edsa, Quezon Avenue and Espana to grind to a halt. Weather reports said that more rains could be expected over Metro Manila yesterday. Certainly a sufficient number of anti-pork activists might have gone had the expected weather been friendlier.
More importantly, Edsa today is far different from the Edsa of 1986. Not only is it a much busier thoroughfare, there is also the Metro Rail Transit or MRT occupying the middle of its entire stretch, and which has become one of the most important means of public transport in all of Metro Manila. Calling for an Edsa gathering is not as attractive now as it was decades ago, and motorists do not relish the thought of parts of the country’s busiest thoroughfare being closed for a few hours in order to accommodate some rallyists.
Furthermore, the Edsa Tayo prayer rally could not bring the same tens of thousands who trooped to the Luneta for the Million People March of Aug. 26 because the date reminded too many people that it was the birth date of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos. Thus, attending may have been misconstrued as some form of support for Marcos and his martial law regime.
On Friday, this week, yet another anti-pork mass gathering is scheduled to be held. By all indications, it will be a youth-led event. Organizers should not expect a huge turnout there either.
This is not to say that the cause being espoused is not valid. It is. The Filipino people remain shellshocked at the extent that the pork barrel allocations of senators and congressmen have been misused, misappropriated, and generally pocketed by one “businesswoman” and the ghost non-government organizations that she put up. But since suspected mastermind Janet Lim Napoles is already behind bars, the public anger may have abated somewhat.
That anger is not expected to resurface unless the people feel that a gross miscarriage of justice is forthcoming. For as long as the wheels of justice are seen to continue moving, no matter how slowly, chances of an Edsa-type revolt are considered slim, if not non-existent.
There may, however, be a lull after the Supreme Court this week issued a temporary restraining order against releasing the Priority Development Assistance Fund of the senators and congressmen.
In the weeks and months to come, we can expect more mass actions calling for an end to pork barrel. The number of attendees may not matter as much as the fact that this is an issue that will not fade into the background, nor be buried in the inside pages of the newspapers.
For the occasional good that it did to some NGOs and some individuals, pork barrel is an idea whose time has come and gone.