Oro, MisOr congressmen asked to face people's inquiry-A A +A
Friday, September 13, 2013
AROUND three hundred people launched a series of protests Wednesday afternoon calling for the re-channelling of Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), one of the 'pork barrel’ systems and for Congress representatives here to appear before the people to shed light on their alleged involvement regarding the public fund scam.
Around 2 p.m., dozens of students from different state colleges and universities in the region converged at the gates of the Commission on Higher Education (Ched) Northern Mindanao office to protest against the budget cuts that led to skyrocketing tuition fees.
The protesters also demanded that the pork barrel should be spent on extending social services that will benefit the poor and the less privileged and not on ghost projects and the enrichment of lawmakers.
“Instead of setting a low ceiling on budgets for state universities and colleges (SUCs), the Filipino youth would be better off if they increase education budget by re-channelling pork barrel funds toward it,” said Gladys Valle, regional coordinator of the College Editor’s Guild of the Philippines.
Protesting ‘iskolar ng bayan’ (public school scholars) identified that in the 2014 General Appropriation Bill, trillions worth of funds will go to the members of the Lower House’s and Senate’s pork barrel while SUCs’ budget allocation was only a measly P34.7 billion.
Meanwhile, the students’ demonstration prompted Ched-Northern Mindanao regional director Zenaida Gersana, to invite protesters’ representatives to her office for a dialogue.
Gersana told the students that the Congress will immediately cut the budget for the SUCs if the proposal goes beyond the budget ceiling set by the Lower House.
She also added that if the SUCs’ budget proposal is not met they will have no choice but to pass on the financial burden to the poor students otherwise the quality of education will suffer.
Gersana also believed that it is unfair to the students to suffer considering the amount involved the PDAF scam has reached about P10 billion in taxpayers’ money.
“Let them shout to their heart’s content,” said the director as an agreement to the student protesters’ call. “So long as they don’t break government properties,” she added.
“For more than three decades the state neglected the right of the Filipino youth to accessible and high quality education. Sadly, very sadly, the Education Act (approved by Pres. Aquino) has further driven the students to be neglected by the state,” said Glynn Bridget Baunillo, regional coordinator of the National Union of Students of the Philippines.
The student protesters also stand against the Aquino Administration’s Roadmap for Higher Education Reform transforms state-funded colleges and universities to income-oriented institutions that will make education inaccessible to poor Filipino youth.
After the dialogue, the student protesters marched to the Kiosko sa Kagawasan in Divisoria to merge with a much bigger group that was spearheaded by Kagayanons for Good Governance (KGG), a coalition of various institutions, organizations, and individuals.
The main theme of their convergence is to regain, investigate and prosecute the present and previous public officials that were involved in the PDAF scam.
As member of the coalition, Gabriela-Northern Mindanao’s Secretary-General Rhodora Bulosan said that they are also calling for the total abolition of the pork barrel funds, and to investigate the national and local lawmakers about their involvement in the scam.
For instance, she said Rep. Rufus Rodriguez (2nd District, Cagayan de Oro) has an unliquidated PDAF of some P3 million and that the people need an explanation as to where the money was spent.
Earlier, Rodriguez has admitted that he approved the release a portion of his PDAF to Technology Livelihood and Resource Center, one of the government-owned and controlled corporations, for a livelihood project, in the amount of P3.5 million.
In reports, Rodriguez, however, said that his signatures were forged in the documents related to said project.
But he said that he is willing to be subjected to an investigation or inquiry.
Carlbyrd Cabaraban of the Commission on Social Apostolate told Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro that all the issues raised in the activity were based on the 2007-2009 and 2012-2013 Commission on Audit’s (COA) reports.
He said that based on the COA documents, the former and the present local officials have committed violations in regard to spending their PDAF.
“Particularly, the diversion of PDAF done by local officials outside the jurisdiction of their district is a violation to the law,” Cabaraban said.
The KGG is also proposing a forum or a dialogue so Congress representatives from the city and Misamis Oriental, who served since 2009 up to the present, will appear before the people and so they can shed light on people’s suspicions and queries regarding PDAF scam.
Bagong Alyansang Makabayan–Northern Mindanao Region will continue the protest as they will hold a separate rally later today, September 13, at the Magsaysay Park to demand from the previous and present public officials to address the allegations that they are involved in the pork barrel scam.
“If they want their names cleared, they need to appear before the people,” said Gary Ben Villocino, Secretary-General of Bayan-Northern Mindanao Region. (Anjo J. Bacarisas)
Published in the Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro newspaper on September 13, 2013.