NGOs on ‘pork’: Never again-A A +A
Saturday, September 21, 2013
CEBU -- More opposition to the pork barrel funds surfaced in one of two public gatherings on Saturday to mark the 40th year since the declaration of Martial Law.
By mid-morning, almost 300 members of the Abolish Pork Barrel Movement marched from Fuente Osmeña to Cebu City Hall, an activity that brought together jeepney drivers, public school teachers, doctors, business owners, and students.
A bigger group joined a second march that was held in the afternoon, the Walk for Peace, which was aimed at promoting unity and respect among people who follow different religions.
“Ang sektor sa mga driver nisuporta sa pagtangtang sa pork barrel kay usa mi sa dako na grupo nagbayad og buhis (The jeepney drivers support the call to abolish the pork barrel because we form a big part of the taxpayers’ group),” Gregory Perez told Sun.Star Cebu.
Several marches, particularly in Metro Manila, have been provoked by reports that pork barrel funds have been funneled into bogus non-government organizations (NGOs).
The Department of Justice has filed plunder and malversation charges against 38 persons, including three senators and businesswoman Janet Napoles-Lim, who allegedly organized several of the false NGOs that received public funds.
The Commission on Audit’s (COA) review of the 2007-2009 uses of the Priority Development Assistance Funds (PDAF) showed that 82 NGOs received at least P6 billion even if the transactions were irregular.
In many cases, state auditors found that no monitoring reports or inspections were required, which could have checked whether the funds were properly used. The NGOs also turned out to be bogus.
COA’s report said the funds were released by the Department of Budget and Management after the legislators involved endorsed the NGOs as recipients. The funds were first coursed through executive agencies, like the Department of Agriculture, then through a government-owned and controlled corporation, before being transferred to NGOs.
Perez, who plies the Lapu-Lapu City to Mandaue City jeepney route, said the money allotted for the PDAF could have been used to give poor drivers like him subsidies for housing, medical services and education for their children.
The PDAF, he added, could have been used to build better roads.
Rally participants on Saturday included Abellana National High School teacher Antonia Lim, who said that public school teachers, who number about 4,000 in Cebu City alone, form one of the largest groups of taxpayers.
Dr. Oliver Gimenez, executive director of Community Empowerment Resource Network, said the anti-pork barrel activity was scheduled on the anniversary of the declaration of Martial Law, as a form of protest against corruption in government.
“What the people can do is to be vigilant, (which is) a pro-active way or effort to show the government our sentiments,” he added.
Movement for a Livable Cebu convenor Marc Canton delivered a speech at the gathering in front of the Cebu City Hall.
“My heart aches for a country where we measure how many of our leaders have Nobel or Magsaysay Awards as opposed to how many we have convicted and put in jail,” Canton said.
“As much as we blame our leaders and politicians, we have to look at ourselves and we have to take responsibility. Kita ang mosulbar sa atong problema (we should solve our own problems). We have to manage our own funds,” he added.
The afternoon gathering was quieter, as more than 1,000 people marched from Fuente Osmeña to Plaza Independencia.
The group was led by Peace, Inc. which stands for Preachers Educators Assembly of Cebu, said Engr. Jomar Fuentes.
Fuentes told Sun.Star Cebu the Walk for Peace was part of the celebration of September as the “month of peace.”
The march was an inter-faith activity joined by business sector representatives and even agnostics, he added.
There were 200 enlisted personnel from Central Command, a 10-member contingent from the Philippine National Police, over 300 members from Cebu’s Muslim communities and hundreds of Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints members.
In a separate interview, a representative of the Muslim community, Somerado Imbalero from the Cebu City Division for the Welfare of the Urban Poor, said they are including their brethren from conflict-stricken Zamboanga in their prayers.
“We are praying to the Almighty One that the armed conflict will stop,” he added. (Sun.Star Cebu)
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on September 22, 2013.