3,000 people join Cebu rally vs 'pork'-A A +A
Tuesday, August 27, 2013
ABOUT 3,200 people marched from Fuente Osmeña to Plaza Independencia in Cebu City yesterday morning to demand the abolition of pork barrel funds.
Cebu’s business leaders welcomed President Benigno Aquino III’s announcement to abolish the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) and said they hoped Congress will heed the call for more transparency and accountability.
Eight organizations in Cebu, most of them business groups, expressed their “collective outrage, disgust, and indignation on the massive misuse and abuse of taxpayers’ money, and blatant corruption in relation to PDAF” through a manifesto printed in the local newspapers.
Other groups challenged President Aquino to give up the Presidential Social Fund as well, which amounts to billions of pesos under his discretion.
For its part, the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) Cebu City chapter demanded the resignation of politicians involved in the misuse of the PDAF.
At the center of the protests are allegations that some P10 billion in PDAF went to fake non-government organizations set up by Janet Lim-Napoles. Napoles remains at large.
“We strongly demand the immediate and unconditional abolition of pork barrel funds in all its forms,” said the manifesto from the eight Cebu-based groups.
It added: “We strongly demand the immediate creation of a special and independent court to prosecute and render impartial judgment on all those involved in the pork barrel anomalies.”
The organizations are the Cebu Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CCCI), Financial Executives Institute of Cebu Inc., (Finex-Cebu), Mandaue Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MCCI), Cebu Business Club, Cebu Bankers Club, Cebu Leads Foundation Inc., Philippine Institute of Certified Public Accountants-Cebu Chapter, and University of San Jose Recoletos Cebu School of Law.
“The PDAF per se is good because resources are being spread out from urban to rural areas. However, it becomes a major concern if it’s abused and misused,” said Lito Maderazo, CCCI president.
President Aquino on Friday ordered the abolition of the PDAF, a lump sum item in the annual General Appropriations Act (GAA) that gives House members P70 million each and senators P200 million to spend on projects.
He said the government would put in place a new mechanism that will be less susceptible to abuse or corruption.
Although he sees the abolition as more of a political move, MCCI president Philip Tan said political policies also affect the country’s economic conditions.
“There’s a conflict of interest going on because after approving the budget, lawmakers are also the ones implementing these. The end result then is that there’s no check and balance, no accountability,” said Tan.
Filipino-Cebuano Business Club president Rey Calooy said the abolition would affect the economy positively. Spent on the right projects, like building schools, these funds could solve school shortages and create more jobs.
Cebu Business Club president Gordon Allan Joseph said if he were President Aquino, he would focus on prosecuting the guilty. “This, to me, is more important. There is little accountability in the country and this is why corruption also flourishes,” said Joseph.
“The abolition won’t impact the economy. But between saying Aquino will do it and actually doing it is very difficult. It may not happen,” he said.
Annabelle dela Serna, Teachers’ Dignity Coalition (TDC) vice president for the Visayas, said their advocacy is to “scrap the pork, punish the crooks and fund the schools.”
She called on teachers to get involved in the issue and on all Filipinos to stay vigilant against efforts to pass off pork barrel funds under a new name.
Aside from the TDC, other groups who joined the protests were the Partido ng Manggagawa, Sanlakas Sugbo, Freedom from Debt Coalition, Alliance of Progressive Labor, the Kilusan para sa Pambansang Demokrasya, Bayan Central Visayas, and the Association of Concerned Teachers (ACT), among others.
But Fr. Max Abalos of Sanlakas Cebu said that President Aquino’s proposal to abolish the PDAF seems “superficial and fake” and could lead to a “sanitized” version of the pork barrel.
“Re-channeling the funds to the LGUs (local government unit), specifically to the barangays, would be better with an assurance of transparency and accountability. The funds must be earmarked for social services for the poor,” Abalos said.
Waterfront Police Station Chief Wildemar Tiu said the rally ended peacefully before 11 a.m. It had started at 7:45 a.m.
Among the participants were children who carried placards marked “No to pork barrel”.
Others wore masks with pigs’ faces. Their companions lobbed “Angry Birds” cutouts at them, in the manner of a popular video game.
“Oink. Oink. Oink. Abolish the pork barrel,” some students chanted at the park.
Sheets of cartolina were passed around, for people to jot down their requests to the National Government.
Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama, Vice Mayor Edgar Labella, Councilor Dave Tumulak and Hans Abella were among the local government officials who marched, too.
Fr. Ernesto Javier of Sacred Heart Parish offered a prayer.
“Being a public servant means that you represent the interest of your constituents. You are not there to distribute goods and money,” he said.
Interviewed separately, IBP-Cebu City Chapter president Elaine Bathan said the lawyers are also joining the call to abolish the PDAF and to investigate allegations of its misuse.
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on August 27, 2013.