Labor and youth groups will join Monday’s pork barrel protest march at Rizal Park in Manila, an event which organizers expect will draw at least a million people.
Partido ng Manggagawa (PM) and FOI Youth Initiative on Sunday said they will march to Luneta to join the clamor for the abolition of the pork barrel system.
Retired Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Oscar Cruz also confirmed his attendance, saying he wants to show that he is against the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) of lawmakers.
Cruz said joining the march was his personal decision and not that of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP).
But he said he will not be surprised if Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle shows up because he “cried” over the alleged misuse of legislator’s pork barrel.
The archbishop defended the Catholic Church’s involvement in sociopolitical issues, saying that politicians are abusing and violating one of God’s ten commandments.
“I will enter politics if government officials are exempted from the Ten Commandments one of which is thou shall not steal,” he said.
As of Sunday afternoon, nearly 18,000 people had confirmed they were joining the march that will culminate in what the organizers said is a peaceful “picnic get together” in Rizal Park.
Religious, professional, business and leftist organizations have also signified interest in joining the protest.
“We are aghast, disgusted and enraged at such a wanton display of shamelessness by those who we elected to serve and protect the people,” read a manifesto of support signed by some alumni of the Philippine Military Academy who are no longer in active duty.
“We cannot and we will not tolerate this any more even those from among our own,” it said.
Another group, PM, called on the people who will join today’s rally to demand the realignment of the pork barrel to a fund for universal social services.
Renato Magtubo, PM chairman, said social services should not be based on the discretion of politicians but should be accessible as a matter of right.
Magtubo said the group’s chapters in Cebu, Bacolod, Iloilo and Iligan will join similar activities in the provinces.
“The PDAF, Presidential Social Fund and other incarnations of the pork barrel must be directly allotted to social services that will be accessible to all Filipinos and not be subject to discretion of political patrons. In this way, the evil of patronage and corruption is removed from the delivery of necessary social services such as Philhealth coverage, socialized housing, scholarships, farmers’ subsidies and public employment,” Magtubo said.
He added that the reforms announced by President Benigno Aquinop 3rd were not enough.
“At best the reforms may curb rampant corruption but PNoy’s insistence in maintaining the pork barrel means he is strengthening it as an instrument of patronage,” Magtubo said.
The FYI group said its members will also attend the rally “to add our voices to the growing frustrations of the Filipino people over the many instances of corruption in government. This should be the resounding public clamor for FOI that the President and our representatives in both Houses of Congress must hear,” the group said in a statement.
Other organizations will hold simultaneous rallies in Baguio, Cebu, Davao, Iloilo, Dumaguete, Cagayan De Oro, Dagupan, Puerto Princesa and other key cities.
Filipino groups abroad also expressed their support to the march.
Bayan Muna Canada spokesman Chandu Claver said a rally will be held in front of the Philippines Embassy in Ottawa today.
Claver said that Filipinos should not be fooled by Aquino’s announcement to abolish the PDAF.
“We know that these are just empty promises to placate angry Filipinos and stop them from protesting and marching in the streets, ” she said.
She pointed out that the “pork barrel”, which was once called Countrywide Development Fund (CDF) “has always been an opportunity for Filipino lawmakers to amass wealth from what was supposed to be funds for projects and services for the people.”
“In nearly two decades, nothing has changed in the already rotten system surrounding the ‘pork barrel’ and it is largely because the same traditional politicians are corrupting it under the same rotten system. The corruption has even got worse under President Benigno Aquino’s administration,” Claver said.
“These lawmakers in Congress, in the Senate, and in the local government units were also those who provided Noynoy Aquino’s Team Pinoy and allies the huge votes during the 2010 elections, and in return, they received the big chunks of the ‘pork barrel,” she added.
Migrante Canada said Aquino is only deluding the people when he vowed to scrap the PDAF.
“How can he abolish the pork barrel when he has the biggest portion of it?” said Migrante Canada chairman Teresa Agustin, referring to the President’s discretionary fund which will reach more than P1 trillion in 2014.
“In fact, the PDAF allocation increased since Aquino became President in 2010,” Agustin said.
According to the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ), 57 percent of the national budget went to discretionary special purpose funds (SPF), unprogrammed and lump-sum funds when Aquino took charge in 2010. For 2014, P1 trillion will be allocated to Aquino from the P2.6 trillion-national budget. Not only does the President have total control on where to use the money, the fund is not audited.
“But the problem is bigger than the Napoles or the whole pork barrel scam. These scams define the undeniable and widening gap between the small super-rich and the majority of underprivileged Filipinos,” she said, referring to Janet Lim Napoles, whose fake foundations and non-government organizations reportedly received millions of pesos from lawmakers.
A Malacañang spokesman said on Sunday that it will not stop people from joining the protest rally condemning the pork barrel on Monday in Manila.
The “Million People March” will express outrage over the alleged wanton spending of people’s money through the PDAF.
”Everybody is free to join this protest,” presidential deputy spokesman Abigail Valte said.
”What we actually encourage is for our citizens to take part in participatory governance and to closely scrutinize and monitor the implementation of projects that will be proposed by their lawmakers,” Valte said
She said the Aquino government welcomes debate on the pork barrel issue.
Like what (Budget Secretary Florencio Secretary) Abad said, it is good that we have a freewheeling discussion,” she said.
”And what is good about this is that it has sparked an interest on how the budget is crafted because, after all, it is the people’s budget,” Valte added.
Security measures were in place for Rizal Park rally, she said.
As many as 500 policemen arrived at the park as early as Sunday.
The event coincides with National Heroes’ Day, which rallyists say is a symbolic day of correcting the misuse of people’s money that starts with the abolition of the pork barrel system.
The Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) will field 350 traffic enforcers and other personnel for Monday’s anti-pork barrel fund rally.
“We will be deploying 350 personnel that include traffic constables, medical personnel and those who will clean after the ral–ly,” MMDA Assistant General for Operations Emerson Carlos said Sunday.
He said a traffic re-routing plan will be implemented on Roxas Boulevard, Taft Avenue, Kalaw and P. Burgos in Manila.
“Portions of Roxas Boulevard between Kalaw and P.Burgos and the Katigbak will be closed to traffic before the march,” Carlos said.
Organizers said the rally will start at 9 a.m. and end at 2 p.m.
The MMDA, Carlos said, has touched bases with the Manila city government, particularly the local traffic bureau, and the National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) to ensure that the protest will be peaceful and orderly.
At the same time, Carlos also appealed to protesters not to bring their children to the gathering.
Metro Manila police director Chief Supt. Marcelo Garbo Jr. has said the Manila Police Department (MPD) has been placed on full alert effective Saturday in preparation for the mass action.
WITH REPORTS FROM RITCHIE A. HORARIO, CATHERINE VALENTE AND AFP