Despite PNoy’s ‘deceptive’ announcement, sectoral groups to protest vs pork barrel on Aug. 26
An attempt to dampen the burgeoning protest movement against the pork barrel.
This was how progressive groups described President Aquino’s press conference supposedly announcing the “abolition” of discretionary funds allotted for legislators called the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) or more popularly called “pork barrel”.
The umbrella organization, Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan), criticized the Aquino’s move to “preempt” the brewing outrage over massive misuse of the PDAF highlighted by the P10-Billion scam involving Janet Napoles.
They also said that Aquino never even mentioned anything about his Presidential Special Fund (PSF) amounting to almost P450-Billion, among other presidential discretionary funds, which is included in the proposed 2014 national budget.
Renato Reyes Jr., Bayan secretary general, pointed out that the president’s pork barrel is much larger than senators and house representatives’ PDAF.
“Aquino expectedly did not move to abolish presidential pork which is much larger than the PDAF, at least P450-B by some estimates. The same will still be used to perpetuate patronage politics, well into the 2016 presidential elections,” Reyes said.
He also pointed out that Aquino’s press conference deliberately misled the public in saying that “it is time to abolish pork barrel” while announcing that his administration will be merely replacing the PDAF system with a new one.
Aquino announced that restrictions will be placed in legislators’ discretionary funds. Among them, disallowing non-government organizations and government-operated and controlled corporations from accessing these funds, and requiring legislators to itemize “hard projects” (i.e. infrastracture projects) before being approved for funding in their own districts and constituencies.
Restrictions or regulations will not work to stop the corruption in the pork barrel system, even if PDAF is abolished, as long as there is presidential pork. Public funds will be dispensed to allies and withheld from political opponents, which is an insidious form of patronage politics,” said Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares.
Colmenares explained that changing the name as itemized pork as what Aquino proposed will further mislead the public, he said that corruption and patronage politics remained after renaming the pork barrel system as PDAF from then Countrywide Development Fund (CDF).
P1.3-T PNoy pork
Earlier, the Kabataan Party-list presented in a press conference their own research claiming that Aquino has a P1.3-Trillion allocation in the 2014 national budget.
The group group said that the PSF is composed of lump-sum funds in the national budget, including: the Special Purpose Funds (SPFs); Unprogrammed Funds worth P139-B; and Automatic Appropriations, worth P796-B; questionable in-budget line items including funds for intelligence and confidential expenses worth P1.4-B, PAMANA funds worth P7.22-B, Conditional Cash Transfer Funds worth P62.6-B, and funding for Bottom-Up Budgeting worth P20-B.
The report also included funds from realigned savings and “hidden funds” worth anywhere between P56-B to P113-B.
“Aquino has, in fact, not out-rightly called for the abolition of the pork barrel. Instead, he only proposed a series of so-called reforms that would in fact even give the Executive Department greater power over PDAF,” Kabataan Rep. Terry Ridon said.
Womens’ group Gabriela called for vigilance with the abolition pork barrel system.
“What applies to one must apply to all,” said Joms Salvador, Gabriela secretary general.
Salvador said that the general public must remain vigilant itemizing the budget from pork for various agencies does not automatically mean that the funds will go to various social services for the people.
“Aquino’s dogged pursuance of the neo-liberal policies imposed by imperialist financial institutions since time immemorial will ensure that big businesses and their own cohorts in government rather than ordinary citizens will benefit,” Salvador said.
The groups vowed to continue their protest on Monday and called on the public to join them. “We will not be fooled and spun by Aquino. These insults must stop. Protests will continue. Let us troop to the streets on Monday to condemn the pork barrel and the corrupt ruling set-up under Aquino,” said Vencer Crisostomo, Anakbayan chairperson.
Similar protests will be held in different parts of the country. Migrant workers under Migrante International will also join in their respective workplaces abroad.
Portent of things to come
Despite Aquino’s announcement “abolishing” PDAF, youth organizations under Youth Act Now marched to Liwasang Bonifacio in Manila to call for pork barrel’s abolition, three days ahead of the big protest action on August 26 and in time for the commemoration of the “Cry of Pugadlawin”.
“Cry of Pugadlawin” was the Katipunan’s call to arms against Spanish colonialism in 1896, led by Andres Bonifacio, who will have is 150th birth centennial on November 30 this year.
The Youth Act Now pointed out Aquino’s “deceptive” tactic in preempting the August 26 protest, while refusing to categorically declare that pork barrel funds must be rechanneled to budget for social services.
“The president washes his hands like he knows nothing about the pork barrel system…(But) if we look at the history of budget appropriations (under Aquino), pork barrel increased by 400 percent under his watch. It increased from P6-B under Arroyo’s regime to P25-B (today),” said Einstein Recedes, Youth Act Now spokesperson.
The youth activists and students walked out from their schools and converged in Plaza Miranda, before marching to Liwasang Bonifacio, and joined by other sectoral organizations.
They vowed to participate in the August 26 broad protest action in Luneta Park, as well as in subsequent protest actions against pork barrel and corruption under the Aquino administration.
Despite Aquino’s announcement, organizers and participants of the August 26 rally declared they will carry on with the protest action.
Photos of the August 23 protest action at Liwasang Bonifacio led by Youth Act Now:
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