by Cong B. Corrales
ALL ROADS TO THE MILLION PEOPLE MARCH did not lead to the Luneta Park.
In the major cities across the Republic, people from all walks of life also registered the same disgust and joined the same call against the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), more commonly and derisively known as the pork barrel.
In Davao City, an estimated crowd of 3,000 gathered at the city’s own Rizal Park. In a cyber-interview with the PCIJ on Tuesday, Juland Suazo said that among those who attended the first ever mobilization of its kind in the country included “Ateneo de Davao University (AdDU), the Sisters Association in Mindanao (SAMIN), Pagbabao Southern Mindanao, Bayan-Southern Mindanao, Davao Association of Catholic Schools, Assumption College of Davao, media groups, and community organizations.”
“The crowd raised their right hand or their clenched fist to pursue more efforts and campaigns to fight for the abolition of PDAF and ensure accountability from government officials,” Suazo told the PCIJ.
In separate cyber-interviews, Cai Panlilio, a news correspondent for the Philippine Daily Inquirer, said about 500 gathered in Cagayan de Oro City’s Gaston Park.
In Iligan City to the west, Merlyn Manos, a news stringer for GMA-12 estimated the crowd who gathered in solidarity with the nationwide protests against pork at 700 persons.
“Although those who joined in the protest actions outside Manila is low, all sectors in the respective cities were well represented,” said Panlilio.
The mass movements in other parts of the country on Monday complemented the social media-driven Million People March that culminated at the Luneta Grandstand in Manila.
In Manila, the people came in drives, most on foot, others on bicycles, while others still, in SUVs and luxury sedans. Even the seemingly strangest of bedfellows were united in the call to abolish the pork barrel system or PDAF – or by any other name the Aquino administration wishes to call it in the future.
The National Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council (NDRRMC) estimated the crowd at the Luneta at the peak of the protest action at 400,000. However the Philippine National Police (PNP) put the crowd estimate at 75,000.
While the numbers did not reach anywhere near the million mark, the crowd itself was already impressive, considering that no single party, group, or movement had organized the event. In many ways, the Million People March was merely a collective expression of disgust over the manner in which the pork barrel system has been exploited over the decades.
The March also pushed through despite President Benigno S. Aquino III’s last minute press conference three days before announcing his intention to abolish the PDAF in its present form, but offering to replace it with another mechanism that would still involve the politics of patronage by legislators and the executive.
“Inaanyayahan ko po na tingnan, dinggin at mahalin ang mga dukha at naghihirap bilang mga kapwa at kapatid. Ating damahin ang tibok ng puso ng ating bayan. Pakinggan ang tinig ng Diyos,” Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Tagle told the people gathered at the Quirino Grandstand.