Dabawenyos march vs pork barrel-A A +A
Monday, August 26, 2013
CLOSE to a thousand Dabawenyos converged at the Rizal Park on Monday, asking the government to scrap the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) or “pork barrel” and re-channel the fund for basic social services instead.
The rallyists marched from Freedom Park to Rizal Park, carrying placards with a broad message asking the government to expose the truth behind misuse of the pork barrel.
Among the groups who joined the protest action, dubbed as “Million People March Davao,” were faculty members and students of Ateneo de Davao University (AdDU), Assumption College of Davao and Holy Cross of Davao College, Mother of Perpetual Help Redemptorist Church and Sister Association of Mindanao (Samin).
Also present were San Lorenzo Ruiz Foundation, Regional Prosecutor's Office, Office of Councilor Leah Librado, Anakbayan, Sambayan, Makabayan Coalision, Pagbabago, National Union of Students of the Philippines, and Centrist Democratic of the Philippines, among others.
Mark Tonel, 31, a registered nurse presently employed at Ricardo Limso Medical Center, said he participated in the rally "to be socially aware and to help inform the Filipinos the oppression that the government has done."
"I am an ordinary worker and it's very depressing to see nga ang atong tax maadto sa usa o pipila lamang katao (that our taxes go to certain people) who are living in luxury samantalang daghan tao diri sa Pilipinas nga dili man lang maka afford (while many Filipinos cannot afford of the) basic social needs, such as food, education and shelter," Tonel said.
"For me it is a harrowing experience sa kadaghan Pilipino nga naga bayad ug buwis (to many Filipinos who are paying their taxes)," he added.
Tonel said he has been paying taxes for eight years now.
Jacobo Ayala, a junior Bachelor of Arts in Political Science student of AdDU, said his purpose of joining the protest action was "to eliminate apathy."
"It's the problem of youth now, we're very apathetic and this is just a small step yet a big movement. This is important because it's the taxes that our parents pay," said Ayala.
He said the pork barrel scandal is a manifestation that Filipinos must be wise in voting for politician during election.
"We must vote for representatives who will represent us and not themselves," he said.
Lawyer Fatima Irene Adin, convenor of Pagbabago! People's Movement for Change-Davao, called for the hasty investigation of lawmakers involved in pork barrel scam.
"The first thing to do is to investigate because without any investigation, we will not be able to collect and collate evidences against these people who are involved in the corruption," Adin told Sun.Star Davao.
"We all know that in any prosecution of a case, the court bases its decision on the hard evidences against the people involved. So the investigators really need to fast track the investigation so that we could prosecute them," the lawyer added.
President Benigno Aquino III has already tasked the Department of Justice (DOJ), National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), and Commission on Audit (COA) to conduct a joint investigation on the multi-billion scam that figured at least five senators and 23 congressmen.
Adin said that with the recently exposed scam involving lawmakers in the misappropriation of PDAF, there is also a need to approve the Freedom of Information (FOI) Bill.
"It is important for the citizens of the Philippines and taxpayers to know what is happening within the government. We need to know where our taxes go and where are the projects that are intended for the taxpayers themselves," Adin said.
In his speech during the program on Monday, Father Joel Tabora, AdDu president, said the people wanted nothing else but the truth about the worsening pork barrel scandal.
"We deserve nothing but the absolute truth from our leaders in government. How public funds are being spent? (Janet) Napoles has brought the decaying rat from the stinking closet into the open," he said.
Tabora also challenged President Aquino to report on how he has used his Special Purpose Funds and to expedite the investigation on how the PDAF and other sources of funds for public have been used or abused by public officers.
"We demand nothing less than prosecution to the fullest extent of the law for those individuals who have gravely abused their discretion and violated the people's trust," Tabora said.
Noemi Degala, executive secretary of Samin, echoed the same sentiment with Tabora, demanding the Aquino government for transparency.
"Panahon na aron i-denounce ang kultura sa korapsyon!" said Degala.
Meanwhile, Juland Suazo, spokesperson for Panalipdan, said the attendance of the people who participated in Monday's protest was overwhelming.
"Nalipay mi sa turnout taliwala sa mubo nga panahon misulti na gyud ang mga taga Dabaw nga tama na, sobra na, iabolish na ang pork barrel (We are glad that Dabawenyos unite in expressing that it's about time to abolish pork barrel),” he said.
Aside from rechanneling the funds to social services, he said more should be allocated for environment protection and rehabilitation, climate change reduction and disaster risk reduction.
He said it is frustrating how many people are experiencing inundations in Maguindanao and in Luzon while politicians live in lavishness.
Meanwhile, a caged pig was showcased during the program on Monday.
Protesters even took a photo of them with it.
Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on August 27, 2013.