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News :: Human Rights : International : Labor : Politics : Social Welfare
Four hundred thousand join people’s march in the Philippines
27 Aug 2013
Akbayan (Citizens Action Party) congratulates Luneta marchers, describes event as “Filipino Habagat (Monsoon)” vs. corruption
By Akbayan (Citizens Action Party)

Akbayan congratulates the thousands of concerned citizens that gathered at Luneta Park today to demand the abolition of the pork barrel system. Dubbed as the "million people march", the event is seen as the first massive protest under the Aquino administration.

"Filipino Monsoon"

"We are heartened to see that the spirit of protest is alive and that the people continue to believe that change must be furthered and deepened. If the Middle East has the Arab Spring we have the 'Filipino Habagat'," commented Akbayan Rep. Walden Bello.

"We hope the 'Filipino Monsoon' will strengthen not only to fight obvious forms of corruption but also its systemic and institutional causes, Bello said.

Akbayan also joined the protest participants in expressing its dismay at Budget and Management Secretary Butch Abad's announcement that the P25 billion worth of Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) will remain in the budget proposal for 2014 and will only be totally scrapped the following year.

Realign P 25 B PDAF in 2014 budget to social services

"The President has already said that it is time to abolish the PDAF. As such, we see no reason why lawmakers have to retain their pork in the proposed 2014 budget," according to Akbayan Rep. Barry Gutierrez.

"The people cannot wait until 2015 for their right to a PDAF-free budget. The members of Congress can do it now. We urge them to rise up to the occasion and heed the people's clamor. Give up your pork and realign it to needed social services," Gutierrez said.

The first-term Akbayan lawmaker said the fund should be rechanneled to social services, which could form part of a universal social protection program catering on the health care and education needs of the people.

"No reincarnation. No resurrection"

Meanwhile, Bello expressed his apprehension regarding the proposed line-item budgeting for legislators in to replace the PDAF mechanism saying it raised the question of a dangerous concentration of fiscal power and pork barrel funds in the executive.

"President Aquino said clearly that it is time to abolish the PDAF. He did not say it's time to rebrand it," Bello said.

"The people don't want a change of name or form for the PDAF or a change of hands in the management of the fund. President Aquino should dispel doubts regarding his sincerity on this issue by just getting rid of the pork barrel completely. No reincarnation. No resurrection," Bello added.

The partylist group also called on Aquino to "sacrifice for the greater good" by setting the example of letting go of his own pork barrel fund and subjecting to strong regulations his fiscal powers over the national budget.

"President Aquino's statement was courageous as it went against his political interest. Now we urge him to go beyond courage and sacrifice for the greater good of the people by scrapping all forms of pork barrel including his. We also urge him to clip his fiscal powers over the budget system," Gutierrez said.

Akbayan participated in the August 26 protest by organizing a "people's jog" comprised of students, women and informal settlers who jogged from Kalaw St. to Luneta.

In Luneta, the group conducted a synchronized dance exercise and organized "Pinoy games" as their strong anti-pork barrel message.

Some of the games they played were piggy sack race, luksong baboy, pupok the pork palayok, pin the pig's tail and pop the pork (balloons).

Akbayan also joined protests organized in other parts of country such as Baguio, Cebu, Bicol, Zamboanga and Davao.


Philippine President Aquino should now heed the demand of the people for pork abolition

By Labor Party - Philippines

With the success of the Million People March, the militant Partido ng Manggagawa (PM) called on President Benigno Aquino III to accede to the demand for the abolition of the pork barrel. “It behooves PNoy to heed the resounding cry of his Bosses—Abolish not reform the pork barrel. Reform or renaming of the PDAF will not placate the anger of citizens outraged at the wanton theft of the people’s tax money,” asserted Wilson Fortaleza, PM spokesperson.

Fortaleza also challenged the “million people marchers” to be ready for another massive protest should President Aquino continue to reject the demand for pork abolition. He also appealed to anti-pork protesters to push for an alternative fund distribution system in which social services will be as accessible as a right and not subject to the discretion of politicians.

“The anti-pork protest should develop into a movement for universal social protection and also converge with the anti-epal, anti-trapo and anti-dynasty advocacies of the last elections. Such is a roadmap towards lasting political change in our country,” Fortaleza insisted.

PM is advocating an “Apat na Dapat” set of demands to address the pork barrel scandal. First, the abolition of all forms of pork barrel, principally the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), the Presidential Social Fund (PSF) and the special purpose funds. Second, the realignment of pork to fund universal social protection like Philhealth coverage, public employment, disaster relief and climate mitigation. Third, people’s participation in the budget process from identification of programs and projects to evaluation. And last, the passage of the Freedom of Information bill to enhance transparency and accountability in government spending.

The group said that the government budget for social services in less than the United Nations target of 6% of the gross domestic product. As an example, PM cited that realigning the proposed P25.2 billion PDAF in 2014 can pay for the annual Philhealth premiums of 14 million Filipinos, a third of the adult population. “The rest of the population can be covered by abolishing the PSF and other presidential pork, and then rechanneling for Philhealth. In this way, we can attain universal health insurance tomorrow,” Fortaleza claimed.

He explained that “Workers do not just want to curb corruption by abolishing the pork barrel. We also want to curtail patronage by removing the discretion of politicians in the delivery of social services. Public services must be accessible to all Filipinos as a right without the need to beg for the indulgence of politicians.”


Aquino's announcement on PDAF falls short of justice for our people!

By Freedom from Debt Coalition (FDC)

President Aquino’s (P-Noy) announcement today abolishing the Philippine Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) falls short of the demands for justice emanating from the massive public outcry against the pork barrel.

P-Noy’s policy declaration is double-edged. While he abolishes the PDAF, he only decries the abuses in the pork barrel institution which includes less visible forms of pork. More importantly, he still accommodates every congressman and senator to propose and therefore, horse-trade, on specific projects for specific districts or sectoral constituencies. The door thus remains open to pork.

P-Noy also limits his line of attack to the results of the Special PDAF Audit for years 2007-2009 and what has come out from the Napoles scam. PDAF has existed since 1990. It continues into the first half of its term. Justice for our people demands that no one be spared. The investigation must encompass not only the term of his predecessors but his own as well. Let the chips fall where they should, whether they be rivals or allies of the President.

The stolen public money so far unearthed is of unbelievable magnitude. The impunity with which they have been dispensed and misused strongly suggest a very corrupt system of pork allocation which extends to the entire budget process itself, and an extensive involvement at the top levels of officialdom down to the local governments. Thus, the investigation must be carried out independently, objectively and fairly.

At this point, many members of Congress are already implicated in these monumental pork barrel scams. Possibly, there may be more. Congressional investigations therefore lack the necessary credibility to do the job. While the Commission on Audit and the Office of the Ombudsman are expected to conduct an independent, objective and fair investigation, there is value in setting up an independent citizen committee to parallel the effort.

The reckoning has to be thorough. Freedom from Debt Coalition (FDC) reiterates its earlier statement: The hundreds of billions of pesos that have gone into the Congressional pork barrel should put to shame a Government that has fallen so short of the necessary educational, health and housing services to our people and has been a failure in solving the scandalous poverty in our country. Once these stolen money are accounted for, they should be added to the massive social debt the Philippine government has owed our people – the unfulfilled obligations to our people as a result of prioritizing debt payments over education, health, housing and other public services by a debt-dependent government.

While the investigations and the prosecutions are being done, radical political reforms toward transparency and accountability and genuine citizen stakeholdership must be brought to the system of governance. The enactment and faithful implementation of a Freedom of Information Law, Anti-Dynasty Law and measures to realize citizen participatory budgeting from the local up to the national levels have become more pressing than ever.

Posted by DeLPhi
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