The people’s initiative versus pork barrel in all forms
By Julius D. Mariveles
‘The pen is mightier than the pork.” – Inday Espina-Varona, Scrap Pork network
“This is not right, we must do something.” Renato Reyes, Bayan secretary-general
“When we talk about political fat there is also personal fat because our political problem is not only about the leadership; people who elect leaders are also part of the problem.” – Runing priest Robert Reyes
“Bakit hindi nila gusto na ibalik ang silya elektrika; dahil marami sa Lapi-ang Pera ang madadamay.” – Baby Dankin, 61-year-old Mandaluyong City resident
THEY MARCHED, danced, laughed, prayed, and some even did yoga at Luneta against pork barrel in all forms on a day to remember heroes.
A year after the Million People’s March that was sparked by the controversy over the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), organizers of a people’s initiative that seeks to institutionalize a ban of the fund are now optimistic that they can gather the required six million signatures.
[A copy of the petition has been uploaded on Scribd by GMA News Online]
“This is concrete, peaceful, constructive, and productive, we only need a ball pen and six million Filipinos will show that the pen is mightier than the pork,” Maria Salvacion “Inday” Espina-Varona, a member of the Scrap Pork Network, told the PCIJ.
Varona said political dynasties use the pork barrel to further patronage politics and continue their domination. “There are many anti-dynasty movements and I cannot understand why some of them are not opposing the use of pork barrel.”
There is now a clear alternative compared to last year, she added. Instead of legislators acting like “fairy godmothers or Santa Claus” by deliberately missing out things during the annual budgeting process, government should put everything in the national budget.
Among the estimated 20,000 crowd that gathered at the Luneta or Rizal Park, named in honor of the national hero Jose Rizal, were three nuns from the order of the Missionaries of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. They came as early as 5:30 a.m.
“The people’s initiative is part of vigilance, we need to keep watch over the nation’s coffers,” one of them, Elinore Llanes, said as she voiced hopes that “this would be a significant step” in making people more involved in watching over their money.
Sister Patricia Martinez also wanted to sign the petition but she was not sure if the COMELEC had already cancelled her registration as a voter in Baguio City. “I don’t want the initiative to fail because of technicalities,” she said, as she added that she still came to the rally because “I believe in (the cause), if we don’t make a stand, if we don’t move, what will happen to us?”
NOT JUST ANGRY
Far from being a scattered organization last year during the Million People March, Reyes said the movement against pork has “already advanced” because it has a shared purpose now, which is to have a law passed to ban the use of the fund unlike last year when people were “just angry” according to Varona.
“We are all taxpayers, everytime we buy something we pay taxes, and public funds are involved in pork barrel… this goes to corruption and is being used for patronage politics; hindi tama ito, dapat may gawin tayo (this is not right, we should do something),” he said.
Reyes added that talks about President Benigno S. Aquino III wanting to have a second term are fuelling the protests. “He does not want to be accountable; he wants to stay in power and he has to use pork to convince the congressmen.”
“I am angry, I am ashamed of this government,” Baby Dankin, a member of Samahang Sibiko, told the PCIJ. The 61-year-old Mandaluyong City resident came early to the rally along with some of her neighbors, a pig mask on top of her head.
“Why is it that only three were jailed?” she asked, referring to the jailing of Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada, and Bong Revilla who were implicated in the PDAF scam involving Janet Lim-Napoles who allegedly gave millions of pesos in kickbacks to legislators.
“Bakit hindi nila gusto na ibalik ang silya elektrika; dahil marami sa Lapi-ang Pera ang madadamay (Why is it that they don’t want the electric chair back? It is because many from the Money Party will be punished),” she said. LP stands for the ruling Liberal Party.
The issue might be serious but the mood was festive at the Luneta grounds. Families came with picnic blankets and baskets, children played as speeches were being given, and running priest Robert Reyes held a symbolic run to launch his parallel campaign for people to shed fat.
“When we talk about political fat there is also personal fat because our political problem is not only about the leadership; people who elect leaders are also part of the problem,” he said.
SHED PERSONAL FAT, TOO
Reyes’ new slogan: “be FIT and FED, not FAT.”
FIT stands for Freedom, Integration and Transformation while FED means Fasting, Exercise and Proper Diet. FAT, on the other hand, stands for Fear, Addiction and Temptation.
People should learn how to transform their mind, spirit and body he said while politicians should learn to stay away from FAT. “All politicians start out with good intentions but they soon start to fear losing their position and then the temptation comes in and it becomes an addiction,” he said.
Archibishop Emeritus Oscar Cruz, meanwhile, said the survey ratings of the president are dropping. The prelate did his own survey of sorts, asking the crowd to rate the president’s performance from 10 or “admirable” to zero or “terrible.” The crowd responded with an overwhelming “zero” grade for PNoy.
“I hope these figures are wrong because most of them are from the religious and I assume that they are just saying what is in their hearts; I will take this seriously,” he said.
Other senior prelates of the Roman Catholic Church who expressed their support for the protest were Manila Archbishop Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle and Lingayan-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas, president of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines.
The influential CBCP had already released a statement early this month expressing its support for the people’s initiative.
THE PEOPLE’S INITIATIVE
Under 1987 Philippine Constitution, citizens can undertake a direct passage of a law through “people’s initiative” or by signing a petition that would gather at least 15 percent of all registered voters throughout the country, with at least 15 percent of the registered voters in each of the 234 legislative districts. It is also provided for under the Republic Act No. 6735 or An Act Providing For A System of Initiative and Referendum and Appropriating Funds Therefor.