by: April Anne Benjamin
MANILA – Thousands of Filipino people marched the Manila streets yesterday carrying anti-graft placards as the Philippines marked its 116th Independence Day. The thousands-strong crowd, however, was splitting to two different routes.
The two biggest anti-pork barrel groups both held rallies to demand punishment to all public and private individuals who were linked in channeling billions-worth of public funds to bogus non-government organizations.
The Scrap Pork Network (SPN), composed of civil society groups, gathered at the Kartilya ng Katipunan Shrine, while the militant-led Abolish Pork Movement (APM) staged their protests not one kilometer away at Liwasang Bonifacio.
Political satirist Mae Paner, popularly known as Juana Change, expressed her highest hopes of uniting the two alliances saying that they will only succeed “knocking down the enemy” when they are together.
Depicting a broomstick metaphor, she added, “Kung sama-sama, hindi yan mababali. Mapapalitan natin ang lahat ng nakaupo na walang inintindi kundi ang sarili nila.”
Paner also pointed out the sameness of the groups’ “enemy” – the Pork Barrel King, President Benigno Aquino III. “Sinisigaw ang pare-parehong kaaway. Pero hindi tayo magkaisa laban sa iisang kaaway. Bakit naman?”
But Vencer Crisostomo, co-convenor of the APM, disproved the supposed gap between the groups. He tweeted, “Anti-pork groups [and] people are united as ever and determined to fight Pork Barrel King. Parallel actions and different forms are also good.”
Also, Peachy Bretana, from the SPN, added that the groups “only cannot come up with a common stand when it comes to how far we fault this president and what stand to take as far as he is concerned.”
The two alliances are on the same page in demanding for a quick investigation and conviction of all names involved, especially Aquino’s allies, which surfaced in the scam.
On its website, the SPN lists three unity statements: Scrap the pork barrel system, account for all pork spent, and investigate and punish those who misuse pork.
Despite the recent filing of plunder and graft charges against Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada, and Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr., both SPN and APM emphasized their protests today on the investigation and punishment of all individuals whose names surfaced as linked to the scam.
Protesters alleged that Aquino in engaged in “selective justice” after he insisted on the innocence of Budget Secretary Florencio Abad and some other Cabinet member and lawmakers in the scam.
Aquino, in his Independence Day speech, deflected this criticism saying “we followed the correct process.”
He defended, “We could have rushed this from the onset, bringing to court accusations without sufficient proof—if our intention was to simply damage the reputation of the candidates accused. However, as you have witnessed, we chose to pursue the truth by using the proper system.”
Ricardo Penson, spokesperson of the Alliance for Truth, Integrity and Nationalism, said, “Today, when people stand against a system, is time the people are claiming the independence from corruption. For the last 115 years, the Filipino people are celebrating the independence of their oppressor, the Aguinaldo to the present Aquino administrations.”