Multi-sectoral groups, including former foes, will join forces this week to launch massive marches and rallies to amplify their demand that all officials, including allies of President Benigno Aquino 3rd involved in the pork barrel scam, be prosecuted and punished.
The groups are also calling for the resignation of Budget Secretary Florencio “Butch” Abad, Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala and Joel Villanueva, chief of the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (Tesda), who were implicated in the pork barrel anomaly by businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles.
As a preview of the pork rallies to come, factory workers and members of urban poor groups Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pilipino (BMP) and Kongreso ng Pagkakaisa ng Maralita ng Lungsod (KPML) held simultaneous pickets in various areas in Metro Manila and adjacent provinces on Sunday as part of build-up activities for the nationwide anti-pork assemblies on June 12, Philippine Independence Day.
Rallies were held at the Mabuhay (Welcome) Rotunda in Quezon City, Monumento Shrine in Caloocan City, Barangay Concepcion in Marikina City and Bicutan Interchange in Taguig City. Similar protests were also held in the provinces of Laguna, Cavite and Bulacan and the cities of Cebu and Bacolod.
The BMP noted that through these simultaneous protests, the group is launching “an independent class movement of Filipino workers for total cleansing of the rotting elitist bureaucracy and for meaningful reforms in appropriating the national budget.”
BMP National President Leody de Guzman said President Aquino should lead efforts to prosecute all personalities linked to the pork barrel scam, even members of his Cabinet.
“Ikulong at parusahan lahat ng mga korap! Hindi lang sina Pogi, Sexy and Tanda [Jail and punish all corrupt officials, not just Pogi, Sexy and Tanda],” he added, referring to opposition senators Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr., Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada and Juan Ponce Enrile.
“We deserve a thorough cleansing of the bureaucracy, not shameless and shallow politicking by the yellow Liberal administration party,” de Guzman said.
Onl Revilla, Estrada and Enrile have been formally charged for reportedly receiving huge kickbacks from their priority development assistance fund (PDAF) or pork barrel.
“The Napoles affidavit, however crooked her intentions may be with its disclosure, provides an opportunity for an impartial investigation of the alleged P10-billion pork barrel scam. If [Aquino] wants to rescue what is left of his already discredited tuwid na daan, he must relentlessly pursue and investigate all politicians implicated in this grand thievery of the nation’s coffers, including Budget Secretary Butch Abad, Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala, Tesda Director Joel Villanueva and Senate President Franklin Drilon,” de Guzman said.
Tuwid na daan (straight path) is the anti-corruption battlecry of the Aquino administration.
Gie Relova, secretary-general of the BMP National Capital Region-Rizal said while the poor “pay their taxes in the form of blood, sweat and tears,” politicians enjoy their largesse by conspiring with “mercenaries” like Napoles.
“We have every right to pursue justice against corruption in government. Workers are willing to march side by side with various sectors and classes in Philippine society, who are now rising against the pork barrel system and elite rule. The people’s movement against pork has broadened even more since the middle class-led August 26 Million People March last year. Now, our present task is to deepen it, by going to the workers and the poor, to factories and urban poor communities, to involve and inspire the millions of unorganized masses in the struggle for meaningful reforms and total cleansing of government. Once enlightened, the workers and the poor would readily lend its numbers to the people’s crusade against pork barrel and corruption, provided that its trajectory is not only against personalities of the elitist opposition,” Relova added.
For the first time since their historic split more than 20 years ago, leftist organizations will unite with various groups on June 12 to call for more drastic actions against all those involved in the pork barrel scam.
“Despite the filing of plunder charges before the Sandiganbayan regarding the pork barrel scam, various groups are determined to push through with protestations on June 12 as the legal actions still have not included allies of the President [Benigno Aquino 3rd],” Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) leader Renato Reyes said in a text message to reporters.
Reyes announced that Bayan will join the #abolishpork movement at Liwasang Bonifacio on Thursday at 3 p.m. before holding a torch march to Mendiola. Those who belong to the Scrap Pork Network, including the group Sanlakas, will merge with the other contingents.
Bayan belongs to a faction of the Left known as “reaffirmists” or RA while Sanlakas is with the “rejectionists” or RJ movement.
Sanlakas leader and militant lawyer Argee Guevarra said he was elated by the renewed alliance of the opposing groups, describing it as a “milestone” in achieving real unity in the pursuit of a common goal.
“It is really going to be a momentous event to march along our former comrades. This is an unprecedented feat because in the past, we may have shared the same views on a lot of issues but there was no actual merger such as what’s happening now,” Guevarra told The Manila Times.
In 1992, the leftist organization split into RA and RJ factions over irreconcilable differences on how Communist Party of the Philippines founding chairman Jose Ma. Sison was running the revolutionary movement.
The RJs eventually worked with the government and some of its leaders, such as Akbayan’s Ronald Llamas and Etta Rosales, were appointed as political adviser to Aquino and human rights commission chairman, respectively.
According to Reyes, other groups that have signed in for the June 12 rally for accountability include the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption, Concerned Citizens Movement, Whistleblowers Association, Youth ACT Now, Artista Kontra Korapsyon, Babae Laban sa Katiwalian, the UP Faculty vs Pork as well as religious leaders Mary John Mananzan and retired Archbishop Oscar Cruz.
The Bayan leader said Aquino is the real “pork barrel king” who is taking part in covering up for his men.
“All those involved in the scam, including allies of the President should be made accountable. The Pork Barrel King himself [Aquino] should be held accountable for the DAP [Disbursement Acceleration Program] and for the cover-up of the PDAF [priority development assistance fund]scam involving his allies,” Reyes noted.
He and Guevarra agreed that all people involved in the scam must be made to answer for their crimes, regardless of political affiliation.
The #abolishpork group has called for the resignation of Abad, Alcala and Villanueva.
“President Aquino had long known of the involvement of his allies in the pork barrel scam. The President himself admitted that he had seen two lists of pork beneficiaries, one list even given to him by the family of [Janet Lim-] Napoles. The Department of Justice and the National Bureau of Investigation had long known of the involvement in the scam of Aquino’s allies,” said Mary John Mananzan during the group’s recent news conference.
“Despite knowing the involvement of his allies, Aquino chose to focus government efforts on perceived foes of the administration. Aquino has in fact led the cover-up of the scam by undermining the recent revelations that his allies, including his Cabinet officials, were allegedly involved in the scam,” she added.
The BMP said they will continue to hold activities after the June 12 protest march to explain the issue of pork barrel, political dynasty and elite rule at the grassroots.
“Reforms must be enacted to prevent widespread corruption. As long as the bureaucracy operates in secret, as long as ordinary civilians are only called for in the political arena as mere voters of elite candidates and have no direct participation in government’s budgetary process, scheming thieves like Napoles and crafty corrupt politicians will find ways to use state funds for personal enrichment,” it warned.
But Malacanang is not alarmed by the growing public discontent over the prok barrel scam.
Presidential Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. also on Sunday welcomed the June 12 rally, saying it is part of the dynamics of democracy.
He added that the Philippine National Police will secure rallyists and keep the peace.
Coloma said he respects the right of the people to peaceably assemble and air their grievances even if such protest actions are held on Independence Day.
Theme of this year’s Independence Day celebration is “Following in the Footsteps of Great Filipinos Toward Permanent and Widespread Change.”