CEBU CITY – The Church-backed People’s Congress will approve at 10 a.m. today the final draft of the People’s Initiative that will kick off a nationwide drive to collect 6 million signatures to stop President Benigno Aquino III from redefining “savings” and to strip him of his discretionary powers over all lump sum funds.
At 3 p.m., Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma will join ordinary citizens in signing the document at the Plaza Independencia here.
“We expect to gather 10,000 signatures today,” said journalist Inday Varona, spokesperson of the People’s Initiative Against Pork Barrel.
“The people demand accountability and transparency, which were promised by the President. He failed the people,” she said.
The launch in the Visayas will be followed by a massive rally in Luneta Monday, Aug. 25, to mark the anniversary of the Million People March, said Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares.
Colmenares said planners will firm up today where the rallies and signature drives will begin in Mindanao.
Emerging from the meeting of the preparatory committee of the People’s Congress at the Mariner Court Friday, Colmenares said the People’s Congress is represented by Church-backed organizations, civil society group, lawyers, doctors, Catholic schools, and unaffiliated individuals to express their outrage over the pork barrel scam.
Aside from Palma, Integrated Bar of the Philippines president Vicente Joyas will keynote the People’s Congress, Varona said.
“The People’s Initiative is also meant to criminalize the use of pork barrel funds in any form that would make it illegal for the President to impound the funds or realign them after Congress already passed the General Appropriations Act,” Colmenares said.
Former Chief Justice Reynato Puno helped draft the final version of the bill, which was cut down from 20 pages to four, Colmenares said.
Fr. Ben Alforque of the Church People’s Alliance Against the Pork Barrel, said all priests and bishops from 96 archdioceses will hold Sunday sermons to educate the public and campaign for the immediate scrapping of pork barrel.
A corner in every church, parks, public markets and various public places will be put up for a signature campaign booth.
The movement aims to gather the required signatures, representing 10 percent of the total number of registered voters, by Jan. 31, 2015, said Manny Lopez of E-Pirma. The campaign must also garner signatures representing 3 percent per legislative district.
The People’s Imitative Against the Pork Barrel movement said they resorted to a people’s initiative after President Aquino reneged on his promise to scrap pork, which remains in the 2014 national budget.
“The President, Congress, and the Supreme Court have failed the people. It is time for the people to take matters into their own hands and abolish the pork barrel system themselves,” Mother Mary John Mananzan of the #AbolishPork Movement said.
“We have jointly come up with a proposed bill to abolish the presidential and congressional pork barrel; prohibit lump sum, discretionary appropriations; and penalize violators,” the group said.
Mae Paner aka Juana Change of the #ScrapPork Network said the initiative will give the “faceless” the chance to participate in law-making.
“All you need is a ballpen and a signature so we can pass a law. How so rock star is that?” she said.
Colmenares said the initiative aims to come up with a law that mandates line item budgeting and criminalizes the allocation and use of pork barrel.
Despite the decision of the Supreme Court to abolish the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), Colmenares said the national budget still contains billions in lump sum funds at the disposal of the President.
Colmenares said Congress has created a new mechanism for handing out pork to its members through a discreet referral and recommendation system even as it has kept intact the President’s gargantuan discretionary funds, including the P132 billion Malampaya fund, the President’s Social Fund and the P449 billion Special Purpose Fund.
Carol Araullo of the #AbolishPork Movement said the printing alone of the proposed four-page bill up for referendum will cost P5 million.
She said the amount would be raised from the “faceless individuals” that would stand against the corrupted pork barrel system.
“We maintain that the pork barrel system -- whereby the spending of billions of lump sum, public funds are delegated to the President, individual legislators or any other public officer is a major source of corruption and political patronage. This corrupt system is an undue delegation of Congress’ power to appropriate public funds that undermines the system of checks and balances and is anathema to the principles of transparency and accountability,” Mananzan said.
The People’s Initiative against Pork Barrel came up with a proposed bill to abolish the presidential and congressional pork barrel; prohibit lump sum, discretionary appropriations; and penalize violators.
“We are in the process of reaching out and forging unities with all forces, groups and individuals to build the broadest possible unity for this people’s initiative,” the group said.
The group’s reasons for holding the people’s initiative are the following:1. The pork barrel system remains intact, which according to one study amounts to P932 billion.2. There is a need for a law that will directly criminalize those who enact lump sum discretionary funds and are involve in any way with creating and dispensing pork barrel.3. There is a need for a law that will require line item budgeting, transparency and accountability and auditing procedures to make it difficult to steal people’s money.
“In this light, we are pleased to announce that we will be holding a People’s Congress on Aug. 23, 2014 in Cebu City. The People’s Congress will finalize and approve the people’s initiative bill and serve as the official launch of this nationwide education and signature-gathering campaign to abolish the pork barrel system,” the group announced.
Araullo said ordinary people would not find it hard to relate to the need to push for the people’s initiative because all of them are affected with the corruption involving the pork barrel funds.
Republic Act 6735 --An Act Providing for a System of Initiative and Referendum--states that “a referendum or initiative affecting a law, resolution, or ordinance passed by the legislative assembly of an autonomous region, province, or city is deemed validly initiated if the petition therefore is signed by at least ten per centum (10 percent) of the registered voters in the province or city, of which every legislative district must be represented by at least three per centum (3 percent) of the registered voters therein.”
“If the province or city is composed only of one legislative district, then at least each municipality in a province or each barangay in a city should be represented by at least three per centum (3 percent) of the registered voters therein,” the law added.
The convenors of the PI-Pork were Mananzan, Colmenares, Alforque, Paner, Araullo, Lopez, lawyer Rex Fernandez and Marc Canton of Cebu Coalition Against Pork Barrel, lawyer Alex Lacson of the Solidarity Transformation Philippines, and Varona of #ScrapPork Network.
The law mandates that the petition must contain the text of the proposed measure, the proposition, the reasons for the creation of the proposed measure, the signatures of the petitioners or registered voters, and an abstract or summary written or printed at the top of every page of the petition.
After the verification of signatures and determination of the sufficiency of the petition, the Commission on Elections is required to publish the petition in newspapers with major circulation within 30 days after its receipt.
The Comelec will also set the date of the referendum “which shall not be earlier than 45 days but not later than 90 days from the determination by the Commission of the sufficiency of the petition.”
A special registration must also be set at least three weeks before the referendum.
If the voters approved the proposition, the proposed measure will be enacted into law 15 days after its publication.
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