SHOUTING “Makibaka, Huwag Magbaboy,” tens of thousands of white-clad Filipinos showed up at Rizal Park yesterday to join the “Million People March” against misuses of the Priority Development Assistance Fund or pork barrel unmindful of an occasional drizzle.
The largest mass action during the three-year-old Aquino presidency, the protesters that included Luis Cardinal Tagle called for the total scrapping of the pork barrel fund.
Various groups and personalities, rich and poor, people who had been at loggerheads over other issues in the past were galvanized by the public sentiment over the PDAF. Small pockets of protests were also recorded by the Philippine National Police in different urban cities outside Metro Manila including Dagupan City in Pangasinan; Santiago City in Isabela; Olongapo City, Bacolod City, Davao City, Cebu City, Naga City, Legazpi City, and Roxas City in Capiz.
At 10:30 a.m., National Capital Region Police Office director Chief Superintendent Marcelo P Garbo Jr. said there were already more or less 58,000 people gathered at the Rizal Park Grandstand. The number began to rise before noontime.
PNP Public Information Office chief Senior Supt. Reuben Theodore C. Sindac said there was no untoward incident report as of press time yesterday. “The situation is normal in the country with the protesters all well-behaved,” he said.
There was a jovial mood in Rizal Park with various groups staging pocket demonstrations within the huge rally dressed in anti-pork get up and singing protest songs.
According to Philippine National Police Public Information Office chief, Senior Superintendent Reuben Theodore C. Sindac, the crowd estimate peaked at 70,000 at around 1 p.m. and thinned gradually towards mid-afternoon when participants began to disperse around 2 p.m. as agreed upon earlier by the participants themselves.
Sindac said PNP chief, Director General Alan LM Purisima, who monitored the situation in Manila and other key cities in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao at the PNP National Operations Center in Camp Crame, congratulated the convenors and organizers of the rally for the generally peaceful and orderly turnout.
“Although there were no acknowledged core leaders behind this activity, we are glad that our correspondence with the convenors and organizers via the social media made it possible for the PNP to coordinate security matters,” Gen. Purisima said.
Sindac said some small splinter groups identified with the more militant cause-oriented organizations were monitored marching towards the Chino Roces (formerly Mendiola Bridge apparently to hold their own protest rally.
He said that a sizeable crowd disturbance management (CDG) contingent was at the area to ensure that order was to be maintained.
The outrage was nationwide. In Region I, about 60 persons from the Non-Government Organization (NGO) led by Father Simon Bistro gathered at the City Plaza of Dagupan City, Pangasinan while in Region 2, some 20 members of Cause Oriented Group converged in Mabini Circle in Santiago City and more or less 50 cyclists assembled at Aritao, Nueva Ecija.
An estimated 4,000 rallyists from the groups Legal Alternatives for Women Center Inc, FINEX, Cebu UP Students, Brotherhood of Christian Business and Professionals and the MAGDALO joined the rally at Plaza Independencia in Cebu City in Region 7 while in Region 6, 570 persons participated the rally at Bacolod Public Plaza in front of Cathedral and Roxas City in Capiz.
In Region 13, more or less 300 rallyists from different sectors and militant groups and NGOs proceeded to Rizal Park, Surigao City, Surigao del Norte to join the nationwide rally against pork barrel.
In Bicol, there were 50 demonstrators monitored in Naga City Plaza and 50 in Legazpi City.
In Manila, protesters arrived in Rizal Park wearing white T-shirts despite threat of rain, some of them brought umbrellas.
There were also vendors selling anti-pork barrel T-shirts for P250 each while participants were urged to sign at a booth to register their protest against pork.
Aside from shirts, ambulant vendors also sold bread, eggs and coffee.
Earlier Monday, PAGASA forecast cloudy skies with rain showers or thunderstorms over Metro Manila.
The PNP in the Metropolis was placed on heightened alert as part of the security preparation for the event.
For their part the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) in the National Capital Region particularly the Joint Task Force NCR led by Colonel Manuel Gonzales supported the National Capital Regional Police Office, providing three crowd dispersal management companies in Mendiola.
PISTON joins march
Saying that they are among the highest contributors in terms of paying taxes, drivers and operators of public utility vehicles strongly opposed the planned “itemized pork” as they urged the real abolition of the PDAF.
Members of the militant transport group Pagkakaisa ng mga Tsuper at Opereytors Nationwide (PISTON), yesterday joined the people’s march for truth and accountability at the Luneta.
According to George San Mateo PISTON president, it is very unfortunate to know that the people’s taxes go straight to the pockets of unscrupulous individuals and members of Congress instead of projects that will be beneficial to the taxpayers.
The transportation sector, he said, is among the biggest contributors of government taxes through the 12% value added tax on gasoline, diesel and auto-LPG.
“Umaabot sa P2 bilyon kada buwan ang nakukolektang VAT sa langis mula sa bulsa ng mga tsuper at operator ng public land transport,” the PISTON leader said.
In a statement issued Friday, the Churchpeople-Workers Solidarity (CWS) criticized President Aquino’s announcement on the same day, saying that his decision to abolish the pork barrel was merely for the sake of appeasing outraged citizens pushing for a nationwide protest.
“President Aquino’s announcement of the abolition of the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) was clearly an attempt to stop the scheduled Luneta demonstration and diffuse the anger of the people over the pork barrel system,” the group said in a statement signed by convenors Sr. Lydia Lascano and Rev. Ephraim Fajutagan, Obispo Maximo of Iglesia Filipina Independiente.
With the present administration’s continued support for the pork barrel scheme, the group questioned the integrity of the “daang matuwid” and “anti-corruption” drive of the Aquino government.
“PNoy is wearing a “mask of righteousness” in order to appear upright and clean. The stench of his government is reeking everywhere,” the group said.
CWS described as “contemptible” the Aquino administration’s diffidence in uncovering the truth behind the issue.
Noting the country’s perennial problem on widespread unemployment, low income, and rampant exploitation of blue-collar laborers, the group expressed dismay over the squandered funds which could have been used for social services such as health care, education, and housing.
The Prosecutors League of the Philippines (PLP) and the Chief Prosecutors Association (CIPROSA) have joined the nationwide call for the abolition of the pork barrel.
PLP President and Northern Mindanao Regional Prosecutor Jaime Umpa stressed the group was calling for the abolition of pork barrel because it was proven to be a source of corruption.
“We support the total abolition of the pork barrel because it was proven to be a source of corruption. While we are glad that there are calls for its abolition, the Filipino people should be vigilant in order that the pork barrel shall not be resurrected again by changing its name,” Umpa pointed out.
At the same time, the group argued that the ongoing probe into pork barrel wastage must be continued against Janet Lim Napoles and officials pocketing the funds of the Filipino people.
Advocates ofr environmental health and justice yesterday joined the rest of the country in seeking an end to corruption in government.
Brandishing coconut midriff broomsticks (walis tingting), the group trooped to Luneta Park where they lent their voice to the call for the total abolition of the corrupt-ridden lawmakers’ PDAF.
According to the environmentalists, the P10 billion wasted pork barrel could have helped in financing solutions to the country’s perpetual garbage woes.
They stressed this point as communities inundated by relentless monsoon rains in Metro Manila and the rest of Luzon come to grips with one of the most visible after effects of the weather disturbance: garbage.
Coconut midriff broomsticks represent unity in fighting the ills of society and at the same time calls to “sweep” corruption.
The group also brought green banners that said “linisin ang lipunan sa basura, toksiko at katiwalian.”
Among the environmental groups that joined the historic “Million People March” were the EcoWaste Coalition, Arugaan, Ban Toxics, Buklod Tao, Cavite Green Coalition, Eco-Marino, Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives, Greenpeace, Health Care Without Harm, Mamama-yan Ayaw sa Aerial Spraying, November 17 Movement, Papawis Lang Cycling Club, Sagip Pasig Movement, Samahang Muling Pagkabuhay-Smokey Mountain and Zero Waste Philippines. With Zaida delos Reyes-Palanca, Joel dela Torre, Lee Ann P. Ducusin, Hector Lawas