It is worth remembering that from the time former Senator Benigno ‘Ninoy’ Aquino, Jr., was assassinated at the airport tarmac on Aug. 21, 1983 up to the time that then President Ferdinand Marcos was forced to flee the country when the Edsa People Power Revolt broke in February of 1986, the Filipino people staged rally after rally calling for the dictator to step down.
There were numerous organizations created that refused to let the cold-blooded killing of the popular opposition figure be whitewashed by the Marcos regime.
From the left, the right and the center, and from the academe, the business and the religious sectors, young and old Filipinos banded together under a common cause.
The rich, the poor and the middle class jogged along Roxas Boulevard and marched along Ayala Avenue in Makati demanding justice for Ninoy, even as pro-Marcos forces vainly attempted to whip up support for the fading dictatorship with their ‘hakot’ brigades.
More importantly, the pro-Ninoy rallies grew bigger and bigger with every passing week, month and year. Clearly, the majority of the Filipino people had had enough of Marcos and nothing his apologists or supporters could have done to appease the public anger.
The final insult was the snap elections of February 1986, where Marcos tried to cheat his way to victory.
It seems almost ironic that the incumbent president is none other than the only son of the late Ninoy and Cory Aquino. While the series of anti-pork rallies are not directed at President Benigno Aquino 3rd, it cannot be denied that whoever occupies Malacanang wields the enormous “power of the budget,” aside from controlling huge sums that can be used for good or bad, without undergoing examination by the Commission on Audit.
Today, the people have again become angry at what they see is a gross misuse of public funds. Evidence is strong that hundreds of millions of pesos, if not billions, has been pocketed by a supposed “businesswoman” in partnership with some senators and congressmen.
The public anger may not be of the same magnitude as the pro-Ninoy, anti-Marcos rallies, but this does not lessen the validity of their cause.
Like their predecessors of the ‘80s, today’s rallyists represent a wide spectrum of Filipinos. They stand united against a political system that allowed precious funds to be siphoned off to ghost projects of spurious non-government organizations, allowing the corrupt parties to live like royalty, taipans or robber barons. All this, while millions of Filipinos continue to live below the poverty line.
And while the senators and congressmen have been shamed into giving up their Priority Development Assistance Fund – at least for the time being – pork barrel exists in other incarnations in the Executive department, all the way down to the local government units.
This Friday, the broad anti-pork coalition has scheduled another rally in the business district of Makati. Their call is for the scrapping of ALL pork barrel, which may not be practical but which the Aquino administration cannot ignore.
Certainly there must be a way to provide funds for medical supplies, food and water, tents and blankets, and whatever else is needed for victims during times of national emergency. But not even the President of the Philippines should have a bottomless well from which he or she can draw funds whenever he or she so chooses.
There will be more anti-pork rallies in the future. To paraphrase Mao, we say let a hundred protest rallies blossom. Until the evil that is Philippine-style pork barrel has been reined in and eventually eradicated, let the rallies, protests and marches continue.