Marching against the pork barrel-A A +A
Tuesday, August 20, 2013
IS IT, to use a cliché, an idea whose time has come?
In the midst of the expose of what is now being referred to as the “P10 billion pork barrel scam,” calls to abolish the pork barrel system are being raised by disparate groups even as anger over the scandal continues to grow. Can the call spark genuine change this time around?
I am asking this because the pork barrel, its latest form being the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), is as old as our political system. Meaning that, it has weathered political storms. Can our version of an outrage against the funds’ misuse finally end pork’s existence?
“This is too much. Now is the time to abolish the pork barrel or the pork barrel will abolish us. Let us join the rally at Fuente Osmeña on Monday, Aug. 26 at 9 a.m. Please tell our friends.”
That’s the text message I received from street protest veteran, lawyer Democrito “Mocring” Barcenas. (By the way, Mocring said he is no longer director of the Philippine National Oil Co.-Shipping and Transport Corp. That means he will have more time for the Free Legal Assistance Group or Flag Region VII that he heads.)
But it does look like Mocring only received that text message and passed it on to me, hoping that I will also pass it on to friends, like a chain letter (or okay, chain text message). So this is what the term “gained a life of its own” that some media reports used to describe the anti-pork barrel protest started by netizens means.
Manila Archbishop Luis Cardinal Tagle said it. I heard leaders of some militant groups call for it. Even the moderate Akbayan, which is currently allied with the administration of President Noynoy Aquino voiced it. I am referring to the “abolish the pork barrel system” demand.
But the “usual suspects” seemed reluctant to bridge the divide between mere talk and concrete action. So a netizen, Peachy Rallonza-Bretaña, picked up the slack by putting on Facebook a “place and a date” for a nationwide protest action against pork. It is dubbed “Million People March to Luneta” and is set for Aug. 26.
Soon, rallies were also set on the same date not only in Cebu but also in Naga, Iloilo, Baguio, etc.
You will know that a protest action is being organized by netizens by the spontaneous nature of the undertaking. They are not even calling the Aug. 26 march a protest action but a “massive pocket picnic.” And it doesn’t have a formal leadership. I don’t know if the Cebu version would be like that also.
I take it that more organized militant and civil society groups will “grudgingly” join the anti-pork protest. I say “grudgingly” because the rules for the gathering that netizens are pushing for would cramp their style. No placards and streamers. No speeches.
How the outrage over the pork barrel scam will be manifested by the “picknickers” remains to be seen, though.
The problem with a “leader-less” gathering is that the honesty of its intention would be difficult to establish. Also, without any formal leadership, a gathering could be taken over by the more aggressive types. Especially when a gathering is populated by disparate entities.
The text message about the anti-pork protest action in Cebu that I received from Mocring made me warm up to the idea of joining. But seeing on Facebook a former functionary of the corrupt Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo administration announcing his intention to join the rally was a turn-off.
Still, I wish the movement against pork to succeed. As long as its intention is honest, I am sure it will continue to “gain a life of its own,” and make the Aquino administration pause and notice.
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on August 21, 2013.