CEBU CITY—After the successful Church-backed People’s Congress in the Visayas, the campaign to gather 6 million signatures against pork barrel spreads to Luzon today, with 22 cities and municipalities in Metro Manila and towns in nearby provinces leading the charge at a massive rally at Luneta Park.
“We are all set for (Monday’s) rally in Luneta,” said Bagong Alyansang Makabayan secretary general Renato Reyes Jr.
Some of the delegates to the People’s Congress here flew to Manila Sunday to join the Luneta rally on Monday, which also marks the anniversary of the Million People March against pork barrel.
Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares, who attended the People’s Congress, said the people’s initiative bill, if passed into law, cannot be vetoed by President Benigno Aquino III.
“A broad range of groups will again converge to protest the government’s failure to truly abolish the pork barrel system and failure to hold accountable the promoters and implementors of pork such as the Disbursement Acceleration Program or DAP,” Reyes said.
Doctors and health workers belonging to the Rx Abolish Pork Barrel System Movement will join the sign up activity from 9 a.m. to 12 noon, said Eleonor Jara, a convener of the Rx group.
Some 22 signing booths, including 17 representing Metro Manila’s districts will be erected for the Sign up, Stand up signature drive at the Quirino Grandstand, Reyes said.
At noon, when the Luneta sign-up ends, the Rx Abolish Pork will join Bayan, Makabayan, Youth Act Now!, Rx Anakbayan, Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilippinas and Kilusang Mayo Uno that will proceed to Mendiola near Malacanang to protest moves to amend the Constitution to give President Benigno Aquino III a second term.
“The Filipino people have relentlessly struggled to end systemic corruption in the country,” Jara said.
“The people’s initiative is one of the many parliamentary exercises that seek to end all forms of pork barrel. The several names and forms such as Priority Development Assistance Fund and DAP, discretionary fund that legislators use for the pork barrel system are meant to confuse the public and cover the massive and rotten corruption in the government,” Jara said.
“It is more efficient if funds are directed to public health and its programs for the masses. This way, the people avoid going through patronage politics, and sources of corruption are lessened,” she said.
She cited the recent admission by officials of the Commission on Higher Education and the Department of Health that PDAF is still in play but in a new form, with blessings from the executive department.
“It bothers us that the CHED and DOH officials seemed apologetic for not meeting the demands of the congressmen. They also admitted that the congressmen are still able to dictate where the funds go,” she said. “This clearly shows that the pork barrel system is still going-on behind the curtains.”
“The people must not beg from politicians for their right to basic social services such as education and health. The pork barrel system must be abolished! Abolishing all pork barrel is a step in abolishing the system of using the government as a milking cow for personal gains,” Jara said.
She said millions are poor, hungry, sick, jobless and landless yet the government refuses to allocate funds for free medicines and better equipment in public hospitals and increase in health worker salaries.
“The problem with pork is made much worse by the Aquino regime’s attacks on the judiciary in the aftermath of the DAP ruling and by Aquino’s desire to stay in power beyond 2016,” Reyes said.
Jara agreed with Reyes and said Rx Abolish Pork Barrel System Movement noted how President Aquino was getting back at the Supreme Court for its decision declaring portions of DAP unconstitutional.
“That President Aquino is strongly considering Charter change to limit the Supreme Court’s power, infuse economic reforms favoring big businesses and the possibility for a term extension speaks of his direction towards elite, dictatorial rule,” Jara said.
She urged the people to remain vigilant and to reject “any form of corruption and dictatorship” by joining the sign-up at the Luneta.
Bayan’s Reyes added: “As in the abolition of pork, the duty to stop this looming dictatorship rests with the people. Once more, let us show the politicians where true power lies. Let the voice of the ‘bosses’ be heard.”
Colmenares said the people’s anti-pork bill came about after the House leadership deliberately sat on the proposed measures that seek the scrapping of the pork barrel system.
“The bills weren’t moving. We filed those in July 2013 but we have not even reached first base,” Colmenares said over radio dzBB.
“We doubt if the pork barrel bill in the House would even be discussed at the panel level. For this reason, the people decided to resort to the people’s initiative,” Colmenares said.
“The 1987 Constitution added a provision that guarantees that the people have constitutional right to pass a law if Congress refuses to pass the law. And the people’s initiative law cannot be vetoed by the President,” Colmenares added.