Making history

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Sunday, August 24, 2014


CEBU made history on Aug. 23, 2014 with the conduct of the People’s Congress for the abolition of the pork barrel system.

It was the first truly national effort to avail of the people’s initiative provision of the Constitution to enact a law. I like to stress that to clear confusion. The people’s initiative launched over the weekend sought to enact a law abolishing the pork barrel system. Never did leaders here in Cebu and in Manila talk about amending the constitution.

The gathering brought together otherwise bickering political movements with different political persuasions and orientations from Left to Right.

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Another first involved the role of Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma as host of a national political gathering. The gathering was not just about pushing a moral crusade against corruption. It engaged this broad coalition in a difficult campaign to abolish what has plagued our political system for decades–the pork barrel system.

Whether it succeeds or not, this people’s initiative movement is a serious challenge to the political patronage system that politicians both administration and opposition love so much.

The people’s initiative campaign is engaging ordinary folks to participate in a national campaign to make history. And all what will unfold in the archipelago next few months began in Cebu.

We all know that the Supreme Court (SC) has already declared PDAF and DAP as unconstitutional.

However, our honorable officials are now desperately preparing to ensure their future from illegal pork.

***

ACT Party-list Rep. Antonio Tinio’s has exposed how his colleagues in Congress love pork so much they decided to infuse the 2015 budget with huge lump sums. Tinio gave Cebu media a copy of a list of government personnel assigned to assist congressmen avail themselves of this unnamed pork funds.

He revealed that some P20.7 billion of funds formerly under the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) in the 2014 budget was realigned to six national government agencies. The Palace allegedly allows these funds to be used as discretionary funds for members of the Lower House.

This should give us a sense that these beneficiaries of pork (from the 10 percent SOPs and higher like 100 percent in the Napoles scams) won’t give up without a fight.

Malacañang is working with Congress allies to re-define savings in a move that seems like looking for a way to circumvent the SC decision. The movers behind this people’s initiative campaign should expect bruising obstacles placed along the way.

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After last year’s Million People March, the anti-pork movement seemed to have gone the way of disintegration. Seven different anti-pork movements emerged in Metro Manila.

However, they somehow got to meet each other and decided on working on people’s initiative.

The Cebu coalition was supposed to proceed fast on the people’s initiative project and actually set a national consultation last Nov. 8. We all know Yolanda left a huge path of destruction in the Visayas that day. In the next few months, the public saw less of the Cebu coalition but it did not mean nothing happened behind the scene.

Some two to three months ago, Cebu Archbishop Palma hosted meetings that got representatives of the various anti-pork groups in Manila to Cebu. In one of these meetings, the consensus was to hold the historic people’s congress and launch in Cebu.

As Aug. 23, 2014 approached, the momentum of support from bishops, church groups, and other groups quickened.

The unity I saw at the Mariners Court last Saturday was unimaginable a few months ago.

But it happened. Peachy Bretaña, who got the ball rolling in the first million people march, along with Makabayan leaders, the Left’s ideological rivals in Sanlakas, Alex Lacson who ran in P-Noy’s team in 2010, leaders of the Catholic and Protestant churches, a Muslim leader were all there.

However, getting this rainbow coalition together and launching the movement were the easier part. The organizers knew getting signatures from three percent of the voters per district and 10 percent nationwide is difficult.

After the signature campaign, there will be a referendum and another national campaign for a yes vote. It is difficult, yes. But as Archbishop Palma told the assembly, “We can do it.”

(Follow @anol_cebu in Twitter)

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on August 25, 2014.

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