• Youth groups support people’s initiative vs. pork

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    VARIOUS youth and student groups on Wednesday expressed their support to the proposal of former chief justice Reynato Puno to abolish the pork barrel system through a people’s initiative.

    “With the failure of Congress to enact a law that will truly scrap the pork barrel system, the situation is ripe for the people to take law-making in their hands. The people’s initiative may prove to be a daunting option, yet the youth pledges its full support to this initiative,” Einstein Recedes, national convenor of Youth ACT Now, said in a statement.

    Recedes said his group’s rapid membership growth is proof that youth and students all over the country were enraged with the controversial pork barrel system.

    “Youth ACT Now commits to mobilize all of our chapters in various cities and provinces—from Luzon to Mindanao—to gather enough signatures for the people’s initiative,” he added.

    According to him, his group has a large base in Metro Manila schools, and in the provinces of Iloilo, Cebu and Davao.

    “Former Chief Justice Puno is correct in saying that the youth will play a pivotal role in the people’s initiative. If all of the Filipino youth participates in this democratic practice, we’ll have more than enough signatures to pass a law,” Recedes said.

    The initiative would need at least 10 percent or around 10 million registered voters.

    Once this requirement has been fulfilled, the Commission on Elections will conduct public discussions on the proposed law and subject it to a referendum.

    Recedes pointed out that the youth sector has the numbers to make the planned people’s initiative successful. The National Statistics Office estimated that the number of Filipino youth aged 18-30 is now around 25 million.

    “We have the numbers. We just need to put in more effort to educate and mobilize the youth to participate in this landmark initiative,” Recedes said.

    To achieve the needed signatures, Recedes said that Youth ACT Now is preparing for youth assemblies in various schools and communities.

    “We have already begun the preparations. Everyone’s excited to participate in what can be the biggest democratic activity in recent years,” Recedes said.

    For his part, National Union of Students of the Philippines (NUSP) national president Victor Villanueva said that his group is also set to mobilize students in various schools throughout the country in support of the people’s initiative.

    Recedes noted, however, that anti-pork barrel protests and other mobilizations will still continue even with the people’s initiative.

    “All efforts to dismantle the pork barrel system are welcome. But we have to remember that the people’s initiative is just one of the options that we have to fight the continued existence of the pork barrel system. This activity should not hinder us from continuing the fight in the streets,” Recedes said, noting that mobilizations against the pork barrel will continue in the coming months.

    “With the Aquino administration not keen on truly abolishing pork barrel and instituting genuine change, the people will continue the fight—both on the legal ground and in the streets,” Recedes said.

    Meanwhile, an alliance of taxpayers from the cities of Makati and Pasay will be staging a candle light protest at the heart of the country’s financial district to denounce the pork barrel system.

    The protest rally, organized by members of the Makati-Pasay Taxpayers against Pork Barrel System (Taxapo), will be conducted at the intersection of Paseo de Roxas and Ayala Avenue at 5 p.m. on Friday.

    Taxapo spokesman Mark Oliveros Gonzales called on taxpayers, workers, professionals, church people and student organizations to join their protest.

    He said the group will also call for a three-month tax holiday for laborers.

    As part of the program, leaders of their groups will discuss the pork barrel system and how it affects tax payers.

    “Our campaign is mainly towards the scrapping of pork barrel system and the channeling of funds directly to schools, hospitals, housing projects, subsidies in fare, price of basic commodities,” Gonzales said.

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