As of this writing, August 26 is still a couple of days away. By the time this comes out, it would be a day past.
On television, radio, newspapers, social media and text messages, everyone is talking of, extending invitations to, and planning about the Million People March. If the initial pronouncement of “organizers” (although whoever they are do not want to refer to themselves as organizers) that physical presence at Luneta is not necessary, and that the Million People March can be held by similarly thinking, feeling and believing individuals in the provinces or even online will be followed, then the one million mark has most probably been reached already or even exceeded.
For sure, almost every inch of Luneta will be filled by ordinary people on Monday. The common tao, regular men (or women) on the street, average Pinoys who are seeking for answers, wanting to know where the taxes they paid went, looking where we are in “daang matuwid.” More will be wearing white (signifying non-alignment); carrying picnic baskets or backpacks filled with food to share rather than banners, placards and effigies; calmly participating and not mouthing anti-government slogans except perhaps for “Makibaka, Huwag Mag-baboy” (a play on words on the pork barrel).
I have seen news photos in the Internet of some leftist organizations preparing effigies of the President aside from the token lechon paper mache and other pig renditions. I hope they decide not to make this event theirs and force their own issues upon the attendees. Ever since they participated in the senatorial and party-list elections, they too benefited from pork. We too want to know where their pork barrel went.
From the time the Countrywide Development Fund (CDF), later renamed Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), was invented, there have already been news of “commissions” or “SOP” (which stands for Standard Operating Procedure) or a percentage share in the cost of the project by some elected (as well as career and appointed) officials floating around. When my husband Manny was still Congressman, the “No to SOP” was one of his advocacies, aside from “No to Jueteng,” “No to Smuggling,” “No to Illegal Drugs,” “No to Illegal Logging” and “No to Illegal Mining.” In fact, Manny filed a case against a District Engineer of the Department of Public Works and Highways when he found out the District Engineer has been asking for “advances” from the contractors, among the other graft cases he filed against other erring officials.
Thus, corruption in the use and implementation of the CDF/PDAF is not new.
What is sickening about the present corruption is the extent, magnitude and shamelessness of the act(s). It was as if the perpetrators see themselves as invincible. It was as if we are all so stupid they won’t be found out. It was as if poor alibis such as their signatures were forged; they don’t know where the funds they allocated (and which ended in bogus NGOs) went; or that “it was not me but my assistant who signed” would pass muster. It was if the PDAF came from their own pockets instead of the pockets of taxpayers.
I wonder if they are as careless in spending their paychecks (legitimate paychecks that is). I wonder if they ever asked their household help for the change from the market or grocery. I wonder if they check the authenticity of an item when buying at the mall or a department store.
I am very sure they are prudent with their personal money. And this is what hits us in the gut. The PDAF is the people’s money. It is our money. We paid it to the government in exchange for infrastructure development, peace and order, health and other public services.
We didn’t pay it so that Janet Napoles’s daughter can live like a nouveau riche princess in Los Angeles. We didn’t allow our employers to withheld taxes from our monthly salary in order for Napoles and her benefactors to collect houses and cars as if these were mere tokens in the Monopoly board game. We don’t work, save and invest only for the PDAF scam culprits to lead extravagant lifestyles, and perhaps even use some of the “stolen” money to buy votes come election time.
The Million People March is not only against Napoles, and Senators and Congressmen who misused and abused the pork barrel. It is not only a call to abolish the pork barrel. It is an ultimatum to all corrupt officials, whether elected, appointed, co-terminus or career. The people are watching.